Drawing up a Will is an important task that anyone with property or children should consider doing. The Will provides a means to legally protect your spouse, children, and property by spelling out exactly how you would like things handled after you have passed on.
While each person’s situation varies, here are some reasons to have a Will.
1) Your Will allows you to determine how your estate will be distributed. A Will is a legally-binding document that allows you to determine how you would like your estate to be handled upon your death. If you die without a Will, there is no guarantee that your intended desires will be carried out. Having a Will helps minimize any family fights about your estate that may arise, and also determines who will be the recipient of your assets when you die.
2) Your Will allows you to decide who will take care of your minor children. A Will allows you to make an informed decision about who should take care of your minor children. Without a Will, the court will take it upon itself to choose among family members or a court- appointed guardian. A Will allows you to appoint the person you want to raise your children.
3) A Will allows you to direct property so as to avoid intestacy. A Will generally speeds up the probate process and informs the court how you would like your estate divided. Probate courts serve the purpose of supervising the administration of your estate. One who dies without a Will (known as dying “intestate”) may end up with a distribution that is determined by state law.
4) You decide who will wind up the affairs of your estate. You get the opportunity to appoint the individual(s) who will serve as the executor(s) of your estate. This person(s) will ensure all your affairs are in order and will be in charge of carrying out your written instructions. Your executor will notify interested persons, publish notification to any potential creditors, cancel your credit cards, etc. Sometimes the executor is a family member but this person may also be a professional advisor (e.g., attorney, accountant, etc.).
5) You can leave property to some and disinherit others. If you do not have a Will, as mentioned above, the state you live in will determine how your property is distributed (and this may include those you wish to disinherit). By having a Will, you get to choose the people you wish to specifically inherit your assets (and disinherit!).
6) Make gifts and donations. Having a Will gives you the ability to leave bequests (cash or other property) to charities or other individuals.
7) A Will is an ‘evolving’ document. Once a Will is in place, you can change it at any time while you’re still alive. As life changes (births, deaths, divorces) so does the Will.
8) It is easier to plan when times are good. Sometimes the realization that Wills are necessary or the ability to establish a Will comes too late – such as when an unexpected death or disability occurs. To avoid the added stress of putting together a plan when times are bad, it is recommended to plan when times are good!
As always, if you have any questions or would like to learn more, please let me know.
ABOUT STEVE SHANE
Steve Shane provides strategic counseling to clients in need of estate administration, charitable giving and business continuity planning while minimizing estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax exposure. He offers legal guidance to clients on asset protection and the proper disposition of assets in accordance with the client’s objectives, while employing tax planning techniques such as the use of irrevocable trusts, life insurance planning, lifetime gifts and charitable trust. He is also experienced with drafting documents for business planning, the incorporation and application for exemption for Private Foundations and the administration of decedents’ estates.
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