An Estate Plan for all situations
Who needs a will? Most people. Some need it more than others, but even the most straightforward family situations should still have a will.
If you have any significant assets, you should have a will. If you have children, especially under 18, you should have a will. If you’re a widow or widower, you may need to update your will (or draft your first one).
One particularly high-risk group is blended families, where children of any age are not the children of both spouses. This creates a much more complicated situation which could leave children or a spouse with no inheritance, or less than you thought.
What is included in an Estate Plan?
An Estate Plan is not just your Last Will and Testament. It also includes:
- A living will, in which you can designate end of life wishes
- A Medical Power of Attorney, in which you can designate a person to make medical decisions for you if you are not able
- A Durable Power of Attorney, in which you can designate a person to handle your personal and financial affairs
More importantly, the Estate Plan consult includes and in depth review of your assets and how they are structured. No matter what your Will says, certain assets may not be controlled by it if they are not structured properly. This can result in unequal distribution of your assets, or accidentally cutting someone out entirely.
What roles do you assign in your Will?
Executor of your Estate
This is the person who will be in charge of your estate after you pass on. It is typically a surviving spouse or adult child. It can also be an attorney, or your family member can hire an attorney to help guide them.
Trustee of any testamentary trusts
If your Will creates any trusts, you can not only set the terms of the trust in your Will, but you can also choose a person to manage that trust. This is separate from your estate, but the Trustee can be the same person as the Executor.
Guardian for Minor Children
In the event that both biological parents have died, you can designate who you would like to be the legal guardian for any children under the age of 18.
Can I write my own Will?
Yes, but you shouldn’t. That’s not just coming from a professional who drafts estate plans. There are many aspects of the estate planning process that are not a part of the Will itself, and you may not know about all of them. If a Will is drafted incorrectly, no one will know until you’re dead, and you can’t change it at that point. In some cases, having no Will at all is better than having a self-prepared Will.
Your best option for drafting a will is to use an attorney that also practices estate administration. You may love your real estate attorney, your divorce attorney, or your corporate attorney, but if they don’t have a probate practice, they may not be much better than a self-prepared will.