In estate planning, one common tactic individuals consider to avoid probate is adding their children…
Having a will gives you a voice in what happens to your possessions, and estate planning documents give directions to others about your wishes in the case of incapacity.
Many people think that they only need a will if they have a lot of assets, but that’s just not true. Anyone who is older than 18 needs a will to ensure that anything they own—a car, accounts of any size, or a beloved guitar—will be given to the person of their choice. There are other documents that are equally important to have, like a health care directive and a power of attorney. Whether you are a young adult or an elderly person, you need to have these in place.
Mic’s recent article, “Do I need a will? How to write a last will and testament, DIY templates and when to prepare one,” reminds us that we all have assets. Even if you don’t have a family, you’ll want to create a will to specify what you want done with your assets, after you’re gone.
When you die, your assets and debts go through probate. A judge rules how they will be divided. If your will is in order, and there’s no dispute, your assets will be distributed as designated in your will. Review these keys to writing a will:
What goes in your will? It should state how you want your assets, debts, and taxes addressed when you die. Name an executor, like a trusted family member or close friend. He will be tasked with executing the will, disbursing your assets, settling debts and paying taxes.
If you have children, the will should also designate their guardians. If you’re married, your spouse will automatically take custody of your children.
Do I write my will myself or get help? Many people use a DIY will for free. However, that can lead to problems, if the will is found to be invalid. In most instances, you’ll want to get an experienced estate planning attorney to assist you. This is especially important, if you’re in a same-sex relationship, own a small business or think your will might be contested. Attorneys can help you minimize the taxes on your estate, make sure your will is legal according to state law and help you set up a trust for your assets. Anyone with property or a family should consult with an attorney who works in estates and trusts.
What if I don’t have a will? If you don’t have a will, the state intestacy laws will dictate how your assets will be distributed. The usual order in which people inherit your assets is your spouse, children, parents and any siblings. However, the laws in each state can be quite unique, so talk with an estate planning attorney.
Without a will, your beneficiaries will have to wait until the probate court appoints an administrator, which takes a while. Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to create a will so that you don’t have to worry about whether or not the will is valid, and to know that you, your possessions, regardless of their value, and your family, will be protected properly.
Reference: Mic (July 14, 2017) “Do I need a will? How to write a last will and testament, DIY templates and when to prepare one.”