Most people are generally familiar with what is called a will, or more formally a “Last Will and Testament.”
Forbes’ recent article entitled “How To Determine If You Need A Will” says that, for adults under 30, even more live without wills—80%. Therefore, if you are married and/or have children, you should have a will, even if it’s just a very basic one.
A will is a legal document that directs who or what entity will inherit your property when you die
It can be a very simple document that leaves everything to a single beneficiary, such as a spouse, your children, a sibling or a friend, or charity. It can also be very complex — using very complicated estate planning techniques to limit the amount of estate tax that will be owed and creating trusts to benefit one or more beneficiaries. The type of will you need depends on the complexity and total value of your estate.
If you own any property that requires a legal change of ownership, then you must have a will to carry out your wishes. These are things like real estate, bank accounts without a POD designation, brokerage accounts and vehicles. If you die without a will, or intestate, then the state law will control how your property will be divided by the courts.
A will can also reduce or eliminate the conflict that might occur between potential beneficiaries. If you die intestate, your heirs might be inclined to dispute who gets what. A will can clearly state who gets your property. This won’t always prevent a fight, but it will provide legal relief to allow your executor to make sure your wishes are carried out and assets are allocated per your instructions.
An executor is the person or corporate trustee that you appoint in your will and who the court puts in charge of your estate.
Drafting a basic will is typically not a difficult or arduous process. Use an experienced estate planning attorney because most people underestimate the complexity of their estate and how best to transfer assets to future generations or charity. A simple clerical mistake or error in the execution process can be disastrous. There are also other basic planning documents that an estate planning attorney can draft that should also be a part of a basic estate plan.
A will is something all of us should have. The time, energy and cost can all be justified when you think about the peace of mind you give to those you leave behind. Don’t delay!
Reference: Forbes (May 25, 2022) “How To Determine If You Need A Will”
Suggested Key Terms: Estate Planning Lawyer, Wills, Intestacy, Probate Court, Inheritance, Executor, Personal Representative, POD (Payable on Death)