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Wills

Wills

Do I have to? Really?  Yes, everyone should have a will.  I consider a will, the bare bones minimum estate plan.   I am not an attorney and I encourage you to seek competent estate planning attorney assistance with this very important legal matter.

No one likes to think about the inevitable: your own mortality.  Death is part of life and we will all experience it.  Our experience will impact family members, business associates and friends.  Our preparation for this event will ease the transition for our survivors.  So, it is an unpleasant topic, but I strongly encourage you to make a plan.

The will is a legal statement effective at one’s passing that provides guidance to survivors.  With a will you can:

  • appoint an executor/executrix, also known as a personal representative
  • appoint a guardian for minor children or special needs individuals
  • identify contingent personal representatives and guardians
  • specify accounts to be utilized for debt obligations
  • make bequests of property or assets to specific individuals
  • make bequests of property or assets to favored charitable causes
  • establish a testamentary trust to manage assets for specific purposes and individuals
  • anticipate challenges to the will and include defensive language

A person who dies without a will results in an intestate situation.  Under these conditions, state rules of intestacy apply and the probate court makes many of the decisions that are typically defined in the will.

Each state has a different set of probate rules.  The state probate court examines and validates or denies a will. The states want to review the decedent’s assets, liabilities and intentions.  The review of guardianship assignment, debt resolution, property bequests and other issues, is completed prior to approving the transfer of ownership of assets.

  • Wills are validated or approved by the courts in the vast majority of situations.
  • If a will is denied, then the probate court will use the state intestacy rules.
  • Wills are contested typically on issues of competency of the person making the will; or undue coercive influence on the will maker by another individual.

Please note that contracts and beneficiary designation forms take precedence over the will.  If you want someone to be the beneficiary of your life insurance policy/IRA/401(k)/annuity, you must have that person identified on the beneficiary designation form of your life insurance policy/IRA/401(k)/annuity.  If your will indicates that Latest Spouse is to be the beneficiary of your life insurance policy, but your life insurance policy designates Ex Spouse to the beneficiary, then Ex Spouse will be the recipient of the proceeds of your life insurance policy!

Therefore, it is very important to include an estate plan review when you perform your Annual Financial review.  If there have been any significant life events in the last year, then most likely your estate plan documents will need to be updated.  Major life events include: marriages, divorces, people pre-deceasing you, births, adoptions, relocation to a different state, significant property additions or dispositions, in-laws becoming outlaws, etc.

It makes a difficult time for your survivors much easier if you have taken the time to create an estate plan.   Everyone should at least have a will.

I am not an attorney and I encourage you to seek competent estate planning attorney assistance with this very important legal matter.