Executing a last Will is one of the most important aspects of estate planning. This document is used to designate an estate agent to settle your estate upon death. It allows you to gift inheritance to relatives, friends, and charities and arrange legal guardianship for your children.
In simple terms, the last Will is needed to tie up loose ends. It supplies directions to estate agents about strategies that were implemented, such as setting up trusts or assignment of beneficiaries, and declare who is entitled to specific possessions or inheritance cash.
Taking time to write a Will is one of the best things you can do for your family. The process isn't difficult, nor does it require much time. Most people find it easiest to hire an estate attorney, especially if they own titled property, investment or retirement accounts, or have children under age 18.
There are different types of Wills that are used depending on the person's lifestyle. For example, a single person with no children with have different needs than a single person or married couple with children. People who own a business would require different strategies than individuals that own real estate investments.
Another consideration is whether the last Will is used for probate estates or in conjunction with trusts. A lot of people setup a revocable living trust to avoid probate and keep things private. The type of estate planning methods needed depend on the type of estate assets and their value, along with the beneficiaries.
Probate is necessary for all estates that aren't safeguarded by a trust. The process can be easy or complex. If a person writes a Will and family members agree with the decedent's directives, probate can settle in a matter of months.
If a person dies without leaving a Will or if relatives contest the Will, probate can be prolonged for several months or even a few years. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken if a person suspects their relatives will file a lawsuit against the estate.
While there is no ironclad way to stop family disputes over inheritance there are ways to minimize the potential. Certainly, you won't have to worry about the fallout from not taking measures to prevent chaos, but why put your family through unnecessary turmoil? When there is considerable discord amongst relatives or if you feel the need to disinherit a family member it's advisable to talk with a lawyer.
Trusts can be a good option for people that want to keep their final affairs private. Wills presented through probate become a matter of public record and can be looked at by anyone. While this might not be a problem for most people, those that want to offer their family privacy should consider setting up a revocable living trust.
Another option is to setup assignment of beneficiaries for financial assets and titled property. Funds held in investment accounts, retirement funds, and bank accounts can be gifted to beneficiaries using payable on death, transfer on death, or a Totten trust.
While the last Will is a vital part of estate planning, people can also benefit from establishing power of attorney privileges, living trusts, and health care proxies. At Craton and Switzer, we specialize in helping people find solutions for end-of-life planning and can engage in methods to lessen estate and inheritance taxes.
If you have questions about how to write a last Will or which estate planning methods are best suited for your personal situation, we encourage you to contact us to arrange a meeting. We also invite you to browse our estate planning article library to learn more about ways to protect estate assets and lessen burdens for your loved ones.