ESTATE PLANNING IS VITAL – “WILL” YOU USE OUR COMPLEMENTARY SERVICES?
Many find estate planning complex and overwhelming (not to mention, morbid). Yet if you care about what happens to your home, your financial and other assets after you die, the process need not be cumbersome. A well-informed and structured estate plan makes a big difference in terms of the time, expense, and headaches you save your family and beneficiaries. The cornerstone of estate plans are wills, which are recommended for all, even if you are young and your estate size is modest. Below are some of the key benefits of having a sound and up to date will.
Wills allow your estate to avoid intestacy, that is, you get to choose who gets your property rather than leaving it up to state law. State intestate laws generally distribute property to your closest blood relatives in proportions according to the governing laws; this may, or may not, be what you wanted. In many states, a will is the only way for you to nominate a guardian if you have minor children. You may name both a personal guardian, who takes care of the child(ren), and a property guardian who takes care of the child’s assets, if you wish to name them separate Wills allow you to name an executor who, as your legal representative after your death, is responsible for settling your estate – collecting personal assets, paying any creditors or taxes owed, and distributing remaining assets to beneficiaries. Wills may be used to create a trust, called a testamentary trust, or to fund a living trust, a “pour-over” will, as your assets pour over into a trust. For wills that create a trust, the will establishes trust terms including naming the trustee, the beneficiaries, and designating trust assets. The creation or funding of a trust is important for families with beneficiaries who are unable to manage assets and finances by themselves.
While wills are important for anyone who owns property, it is important to note that having a will alone does not allow your estate to avoid probate. Probate is the legal process which determines if a will was created, is valid and, if no will is present or it’s invalid, the general administration of a deceased person’s estate. Probate can be costly and time intensive, sometimes taking years to distribute assets at a cost that can be greater than 1% of the estate. There are strategies to avoid probate which include the development of trusts and proper beneficiary designations, to name a few.
While there are many do-it-yourself programs available for drafting wills, we highly recommend the engagement of an attorney that has estate planning as their primary specialty. As part of our financial planning services, we work with clients to prepare them for engaging an estate planning attorney, and we work together to complete the process and suggest periodic updates. If you want to learn more about our estate planning services and personally discuss this further, or if you need a referral to an experienced estate attorney, then please give us a call or send a brief note or email.