We all know what a Will is: a person states his wishes for who gets what when he or she passes away.
Having a Will is, of course, is better than not having one … but it may be nowhere near as beneficial to you as creating an Estate Plan.
Here are some very basic facts about Wills vs. other legal Estate Planning tools that are available to individuals and couples who want to leave as much as possible to their loved ones:
- A Will becomes a public document when a person passes, and it is subject to “Probate review” which means the courts are involved in the settlement of the estate
- Even when there’s a Will, the Will can be contested by someone who feels that they are due an inheritance, or if a beneficiary disagrees with who was named as executor
- When Probate happens, as it does with a Will, it is a detailed, multi-step process defined by the state, and it takes time and diligence to get through. It can also be costly.
- Probate, however, can be avoided when creating an Estate Plan, and especially a Living Trust (a tool within Estate Planning), that clearly defines how the person’s assets are to be distributed
- A comprehensive Estate Plan can not only ensure that matters relating to your estate are kept private (out of the courts), but it can also reduce taxes, protect your hard-earned assets in the future, potentially reduce taxes that your heirs may be subject to, and allow you to make very specific – and revisable – wishes for sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, those with special needs, other loved ones, even charities.
And, speaking of your offspring and loved ones, it’s very important to pay attention to the repercussions of today’s ever-changing family dynamics …
With today’s high incidences of divorce, re-marriage, ex in-laws, children from previous marriages and other unique family situations, having a simple Will can easily lead to unintended consequences.
The above summary is only an outline; it can be looked at as the beginning of what could be an in-depth discussion regarding how you want your estate to be handled, and how you want your heirs to be treated.
These many positive options are why it can be very beneficial for you to talk to an attorney who is trained in Estate Planning. And you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that you are providing for your family as best you can.