Thinking about what happens after you pass away is overwhelming and often unsettling. To make the process a bit more digestible, we have put together some basics to know or ask yourself, about preparing a will and considering a trust.
What is a will?
A will is an estate planning document that establishes where your property, minor children, and other assets go after your death. Without a will, state statutes will dictate where your property will go. So, it’s kind of REALLY important.
What is a trust?
A trust is an additional and more complex estate planning arrangement that is sometimes paired with a will. Trusts vary in kind, and each create a fiduciary relationship between yourself and a trustee to hold and manage your assets in accordance with your instructions.
Why do I need a lawyer to help me with my will?
Creating your will by yourself can leave the future up to chance. Failing to follow the required formalities renders it unenforceable and may cause the contents of your will to be up for debate. Each state has different requirements such as requiring disinterested witnesses to prove the documents are reliable. Having an attorney assist in this process creates the peace of mind that after death there is not a threat of someone trying to invalidate your wishes in your will.
Who Needs a will?
Surprise! – You do not need to be old and in bad health to need a will. If you are 18+, of sound mind, and able to check any of the following boxes, YOU probably should have a will.
- Are you married?
- Do you have kids?
- Have any pets?
- Happen to own property?
- Do you have any financial accounts like a 401k or savings account with a positive balance?
So, why do the items on this list make it SO important for you to have a will? Simply because you need to give guidance now as to how you want to treat these matters when you are gone. Have you considered the following:
If you are married, you might want all your assets to go to your spouse. Maybe you want nothing to go to them. Maybe you want to sprinkle your siblings and parents with some of your wealth too. Depending on the laws, your spouse might not inherit everything like many assume. Including whether you want your wife to have the boat, your husband to get the property you own, or your kids to share the assets is important in a will. Preparing for those tough times lessens the burden on those left after you are gone. It also makes sure your last wishes are followed through.
If you have children that are still minors, you probably have an opinion on who raises them or financially cares for them if you passed away. This type of testament would establish your wishes on your child’s care and not leave it up to someone else to decide. Additionally, if you want to leave your kids something, everything, or nothing, it is good to have that formally written down. That way other heirs or the government do not have the right to challenge the decision on what goes where. Maybe you want the inheritance to be split among children and a spouse. Having this written in your will leaves no room for error or wrongful interpretation. If you have stepchildren who you want to leave part of your estate to, that is often something that needs to be put in a valid will or else it would not be upheld by the law. Preparing for your children takes the stress and sometimes hostility out of the division of assets after death.
Would you give your pet to a stranger? You probably said no. That is why listing who would be your desired caretaker for your pets after you are gone is important. You cannot legally leave inheritance to your pet, but you can provide for your pet by designating a beneficiary for your pet. Setting out instructions on where or with whom you want your furry friends to live is important, so that someone else does not have to guess what you would have wanted.
Will your heirs know what to do if they are gifted a piece of land or house from your estate? Property holdings can be confusing, especially if land is co-owned or left with no direct beneficiary. State to state laws differ on this subject, so having designations established in your will can reduce confusion and give guidance to your beneficiaries.
Checking accounts, 401ks, and insurance policies all need a place to land after you pass. Whether you want it split evenly among your heirs or partially given to charity, making that decision in your will helps to create clarity for your executor. It divides your financial assets the way YOU want, not how one of your children or other heirs wish it were divvied up.
Already have a will, but not sure if or when you need to update it?
Each big life event provides a good opportunity to look back at your will and make necessary changes. This could entail anything from getting a divorce, having another child, having an heir pass away, moving to a new state or new house, or just wanting to change a charity beneficiary. Making sure to keep your wishes up to date can give you peace of mind and provide the assurance that the people you choose as your heirs will inherit exactly what you have designated. If you do not make changes after big changes in your life, you could be at risk of not having your desired outcome. People could be left out. People could be left in. Be prepared!
How can Skufca Law help YOU with your will needs?
If you’re considering making updates and revisiting your current will, our attorneys at Skufca Law can help you revise your current documents, giving you up to date documentation and peace of mind.
If you are starting from scratch, you’re in luck. We offer a Will Package to cover all the basic documents someone needs when it comes to will planning. For a flat fee you get the following:
- Durable Power of Attorney (POA)
- Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA)
- Living Will
We can additionally work with you and your financial advisor to help determine whether adding a trust to your estate plan is right for you.
Contact us today at (704) 376-3030 to learn about our flat fee will package and make an appointment to discuss your will and trust needs.