Estate Protections Series, Part 6
When most people look into “estate planning,” it is because they want to create a Last Will & Testament, a document that serves as their voice when they ultimately pass away. Although a Will is important, please remember from this Estate Protections Series that a Will does not prevent probate. The sole function of this document is to make probate easier should it occur after your death. In a later installment, we will address probate and how to avoid it, but for now, let us look to the Last Will.
WHAT IS A LAST WILL?
The Will document has existed for centuries, serving as an instruction manual to dispose of your affairs when you are no longer here. Any person over the age of 18 can create a Will (and they should!), and in it, most people provide for a few important issues:
- Who will wrap up my affairs? Commonly referred to as the Executor (now “Personal Representative”), this person takes care of any final/lingering issues after your passing.
- Who will take care of my children? If you have any children under age 18, your Will allows you to nominate guardians to take over their care. Without a Will and guardian nomination, nearly anyone can petition the local courts to take your children. Unfortunately, this can result in family disputes, or even the state government taking them until the issue resolves.
- Who receives my money and property? A Will allows you to dictate inheritance, including who receives from you, who does not, and how to distribute assets.
- What are my final wishes? Including decisions like burial vs. cremation, the Will can ensure that your specific wishes are known and carried out properly. Additionally, the Will ensures everything is very clear and helps prevent disputes between your loved ones.
- How do final expenses, taxes, and probate work? Lastly, the Last Will controls the actual processes for final administration of your affairs. For example, what accounts should the Executor use to pay your final expenses? How are final taxes handled?
WHY SHOULD I HAVE A LAST WILL?
Even though you need to take specific steps to avoid probate, every person over the age of 18 should have a Will in place. The document essentially acts as a safety net, making sure that your wishes are met even if you accidentally end up in a probate situation. Importantly, for people with minor children, even if you avoid probate for yourself, the Will ensures that the correct people step in to take over care for your children.
Along with Medical Directives and a strong Power of Attorney, the Last Will & Testament is the last document of the basic estate plan – what every single person over the age of 18 should have. How you avoid probate and address specific tax issues may complicate your planning and involve the use of other documents, but these basic documents ensure all wishes can be met without complication or disputes.
HOW CAN AN ESTATE ATTORNEY HELP?
As with any legal planning, you have several options for how to create estate planning documents. At Opfer | Campbell | Beck P.C., our attorneys always provide you with a no-cost consultation. This includes a review of any existing estate plan documents, as well as plenty of resources so that you understand the best plan of action for you. For more information about estate planning in general, click here. For more information or to schedule, please contact our office today.