Imagine your home being given to a scornful ex after you die.
Or what about your investment account being distributed to an acquaintance rather than your own children.
That’s exactly what can happen if you don’t have a will in place.
But when you have the foresight to create a will with the help of an estate planning attorney, you can rest easy knowing exactly what’s being given, to whom, and when.
The idea of estate planning might sound daunting, and it can be. But with the help of estate lawyers, you’ll be able to create a sound estate plan that will deal with all of your possessions after you’ve passed on.
Draft a Will
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: you need a will. Otherwise, your assets – no matter how much or how little they may be worth – may be handed out to parties you’d rather not be involved with. Or, they could also be handed out at inappropriate times or be divided in ways you’d have a problem with.
Get this: only 44% of American adults have a will in place, according to a Gallop poll. The rest of the population will be depending on the courts to handle their estate, and probably not in the way they would have liked.
Having a will in place can help you ensure that the people you choose to include get the assets you want to leave behind. Instead of letting the courts decide how your assets will be dealt with according to the state you live in, you’ll be in charge.
When signing a will, you’ll specify an executor who you grant the authority to pay whatever debts you might still have and distribute whatever’s left of your estate accordingly.
Wills are especially important as part of your estate plan if you’ve got kids that are still minors. That way you can either leave the assets in trust for such children.
Use a Revocable Living Trust
If you want to avoid probate – which requires your will to be filed as a public record and puts it at risk of being invalidated by the courts – a revocable living trust might be in order. In some situations, probates can be expensive and time consuming, especially if your beneficiaries or family members are fighting.
Create Trusts for Your Children
Whether you create it in a will or as part of your revocable living trust, creating a trust for the benefit of your children will also allow you to protect any assets you want to leave them. You’ll be able to name a trustee who will do what you ask when it comes to managing and distributing the assets, whether it’s a relative, friend, attorney, or anyone else you trust with this important job.
Without a trust for your children, the assets you leave them could be available to be claimed by their creditors, including their spouse in a divorce proceeding.
Specify Your Beneficiaries
A will or revocable trust is definitely a crucial part of your estate plan, but you’ll still want to be very specific about who gets what. Not all assets go through probate, such as assets with a beneficiary designation or right of survivorship in place. Assets that pass automatically, without the need for a will to be submitted to the court are called non-probate assets. You’ll want to make sure you have completed the proper paperwork to designate who will receive the benefit from your life insurance policies, retirement assets and other non-probate assets.
Make sure you show your estate planning attorney any beneficiary forms you’ve completed in the past and review them carefully. A beneficiary that you may have named long ago may be someone you’d rather not pass anything down to any longer. Instead, you may have other beneficiaries in mind.
Leave a Letter With Your Estate
There might be some things that you’d rather not include in your will.
Maybe you want to tell your loved ones where you’d like to scatter your ashes. Or maybe you want to leave your grandmother’s ring to a special loved one. Regardless, things like these are better left in a written letter left behind with your estate.
Even though whatever might be in a letter like this isn’t necessarily enforceable under the law, the people you’ve instructed to read it will probably follow through with your wishes. A letter like this might be best kept with an estate planning attorney who will be certain to deliver it to the right person.
Name a Power of Attorney
Estate planning doesn’t just have to do with what happens after you pass away. It also helps you deal with your estate if you’re incapacitated and can’t make these important decisions on your own.
Estate lawyers will help you create a durable power of attorney which will involve naming someone who will manage your finances if you’re unable to. This type of power attorney will stay in effect until you revoke it.
Without a durable power of attorney, the courts may need to appoint a guardian to manage your money and handle your debt. Guardianship is a slow process and includes many hoops your loved ones will be required to jump through, including posting a bond and filing annual accountings with the court.
Estate lawyers will also help you create a medical power of attorney so you can designate who will make decisions about your medical care if you are unable to do so.
Plan Your Estate With the Help of an Estate Planning Attorney
Drafting up a will and planning your estate would definitely be best done with the help of a seasoned estate planning attorney. They’ve got the experience and the know-how to make sure that no stone is left unturned.
It’s too late after you die. The time to plan what happens to your estate is now.
You might think you’re young and nothing will happen to you for a long time. That’s probably true, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry, and an estate planning lawyer can help you get your gear in order to make sure your estate is handled exactly the way you want it to be.
Are you ready to start planning your estate? Contact us today to book your consultation.