Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Living wills
A will is written for the benefit of those left behind
If you own, or may own, any property or assets, you need a Will. The assets held at the time of your death will be divided into two estates: the non-probate estate which passes outside the control of your Will, and the probate estate which is controlled by your Will. Your Will controls only that property that is held in your individual name. In contrast, property held as joint tenants with right of survivorship usually passes outside the control of your Will to the surviving joint owner at the time of death, by operation of law. If you die without a Will, the State will decide who gets your property. You should be the person to make those decisions.
Who Will Handle Your Affairs?
When preparing a Will, you must appoint an Executor ó a person who will have the responsibility of collecting, accounting for, and distributing your probate estate. There is a natural inclination to name your spouse as Executor, and to appoint one of your children as an alternate. This arrangement usually makes sense, but you must ask yourself whether or not your spouse is able to handle this responsibility. Will it cause friction among your children by choosing only one of them to be Executor?
Who Will Care For The Minor Children?
For parents with minor children, making a Will is a duty, regardless of the amount of their estate. Should both parents die without Wills, there may be unseemly contests over the guardianship of the children.
Carefully planned, a Will can do for the children what the parents would have done for them had they been alive. Their upbringing can be placed in the hands of relatives or friends whom their parents know to have sound judgment and stable, happy homes. Funds for their support and education can be established and properly managed. Even though no one and no amount of money can replace them, parents can ease their children's misfortune by the single act of executing Wills that provide for the correct guardian and provide for the management of funds for the benefit of the children.
Time To Review Your Old Will?
If your children are teenagers or older and your Will is more than five years old, it is probably time to rethink your plans for the disposition of your property. When they were young, you probably had one overriding concern ó that everything possible be done to conserve your estate for the benefit of your minor children if your death denied them your support. No doubt, your Will reflects this concern.
Perhaps since the initial drafting of your Will, one or more of your children has demonstrated a special need. Your Will should be revised to provide for those needs. And, most likely, the value of your property will have increased. Over the past ten years, the price of homes in our area has increased dramatically. Social security benefits, retirement plan income, and savings accounts have also grown. Now is the time to take stock of your assets and decide who will receive them and how estate taxes can be minimized.
As children grow toward adulthood, they begin to show more interest in property. They may express a desire for particular items which have sentimental value for them. Or they may indicate no interest in some property or items. By making specific devises in your Will, or arranging for an external writing reflected in the Will, these pieces of property can be given to the people who want them the most and who will most appreciate the gift.