Do I Need A Will?

I get this question quite often. Family members and friends falsely assume that estate planning is for the “rich”. They think that they are too young to need a Will or they don’t have enough money to worry about planning. I explain that sometimes the headaches associated with a lack of planning usually have nothing to do with the size of a persons estate. Unfortunately, it takes the death of a loved one, an extended stay in a nursing home or a custody battle over a child to realize how crucial planning can be for young and old, rich and not so rich.

BASIC ESTATE PLANNING WILL GUIDE OTHERS IN MAKING DECISIONS

Even the simplest of estates require basic documents to ensure your affairs are in order. These documents will allow the persons you nominate to manage your estate if you are unable to make decisions for yourself and an executor to distribute your estate according to your wishes after death. If you die without a Will (also referred to as intestate), your estate will be distributed according to the laws of your domicile.

The following documents are a good starting point to give you the peace of mind that your wishes will be respected should anything happen:

  • Will – A Will is a legal document that gives instructions to be followed after your death. Your Will allows you to name your beneficiaries, a guardian for your children, as well as an executor to manage and distribute your estate after death. Note: Not all assets will be distributed according to the provisions in your Will. Certain assets that have their own beneficiary designation will pass outside of the probate process according to beneficiaries you have chosen. Some examples of assets that will bypass the probate process are living trusts, life insurance, assets held as joint tenants with right of survivorship, payable-on-death accounts, and retirement accounts.
  • Durable Power of Attorney – A durable power of attorney allows you to name someone to manage your financial affairs should you become incapacitated and not be able to make decisions on your behalf.
  • Health Care Proxy – A health care proxy is similar to a durable power of attorney. Your health care proxy allows you to name someone to make health care decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated and cannot make decisions for yourself.

Failing to plan could force others, including the Probate Court, to make these crucial and often emotional decisions for you. Others may or may not, for whatever reason, make the same decisions you would have. Taking these basic steps will give you the peace of mind that your wishes will be respected. Please contact us if you would like more information or would like to schedule a consultation.