Creating a Will
Believe it or not, 40% of Americans over the age of 45 don’t have a will, and the reasons most often cited are: feeling they didn’t need one (17%), feeling it’s not an urgent task (22%), and never finding the time to make one (57%). Yet incapacitation and death are unpredictable. Having a living will and last will and testament in place not only remove ambiguity and avoid unnecessary complications, but it will avoid laying an undue burden on your loved ones while ensuring that the right people are in control of or receive the correct parts of your assets.
What a Will Can Do
There are two types of wills that ought to be discussed. First, the living will is what outlines what ought to be done when you become physically or psychologically incapacitated, whether it’s by injury or illness. This type of will identifies who has power of attorney for medical and financial situations, and it’s important because if you don’t have a living will in place, these decisions may be left up to estranged or incapable family members, medical personnel, or the courts.
A final will and testament handles how you want your assets to be handled upon your death. That includes physical property, valuables, digital possessions (e.g., iTunes songs, photos that have been posted online), and money. You’ll define who will execute your will, which may include attending probate court. If you have children under the age of 18, you’ll be able to identify their legal guardian as well as who will handle their inheritance. You can also name a caretaker for your pets. It’s also wise to state how you’d like debts and taxes to be paid from your assets.
What a Will Can’t Do
Of course, every legal document has its limitations. Perhaps most importantly, a will does not have the power to protect assets from probate court, which is part of the process of determining how an individual’s debts and taxes are paid for. (Honestly, that’s why a will is only the first piece of a complete estate plan.) Another key thing to remember is that your will should not outline funerary plans because usually, wills are not addressed until well after the funeral is likely to have occurred. You also cannot put detailed restrictions on gifts, for instance, making them contingent on marriage, divorce, or particular religious events or changes. And of course, anything handled by a trust or which otherwise already details a beneficiary (for instance, a 401K or life insurance property) cannot be overridden by a will. Here’s some other things you cannot do with a will:
- Leave property held in joint tenancy, community tenancy, or under rights of survivorship.
- Leave property that is identified as transfer-on-death or payable-on-death.
- Reduce or eliminate estate tax liability.
- Leave money earmarked for illegal purposes.
- Arrange long-term funding for care for special needs beneficiaries.
- Name pets as beneficiaries.
Schottler & Associates Can Help
Hiring legal professionals can ensure that your living will or last will and testament includes everything you need it to, as well as inform you of your other options (such as trusts) to handle those things that a will can’t control. What’s more, an estate attorney can help you navigate a very emotional process with a clear head when you need to make hard decisions. Don’t leave your loved ones at the mercy of your state’s succession and intestacy laws by dying without a will. Contact us today to get started. At Schottler & Associates, we’ll help you to:
- Outline all of your entitlements and assets, including digital assets.
- Identify an executor and durable financial or medical power of attorney.
- Identify beneficiaries and outline who receives what.
- Ensure that all documents and waivers are in order to ensure beneficiaries receive what they should.
- Determine guardianship for minors or other dependents with special needs.
- Keep your wills up to date throughout critical life changes, such as divorce.
Will vs. a Trust: What’s Best for You?
Estate planning is full of choices. We’ll help you decide whether a will or trust is right for you.
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Schottler & Associates
7222 W Cermak Rd #701 Riverside, IL 60546