Your net worth has very little to do with why you need a will. Everyone needs a will and an estate plan. The will does more than give you a chance to distribute your property as you see fit. Having a will protects your family and sends a clear message that you cared enough to plan ahead.
A will doesn’t have to be complicated to require the help of an experienced estate planning attorney. There are a number of formalities that must be followed. If they are not done properly, the will becomes invalid, leading to a host of other problems. Not having a will creates havoc for the family, and leave the family open to stress, delays, and unnecessary expenses. A recent article from the Daily Advertiser, “Where there is a will, there is a plan in place,“ explains the fundamental facts about wills.
Testator. The creator of the will must provide his name, address and intention to create a distribution process for his assets. He must also state that the will being made is his last will and testament, revoking any other prior wills. Revocation of prior wills is important to show that the decisions made in the current will are final and the recent date on the will evidences how current the will is and to know which will (if there are others) supersedes all others.
Debts. The will must explain how any outstanding bills will be paid. These include the funeral costs, medical costs, taxes, court costs for settling the estate, and any other expenses the deceased may have at his death.
Heirs. A will should detail who gets what. Specific bequests should state a full description of the physical asset or, if money is to be distributed, then a percentage of the estate’s value or specific amount should be listed. Most testators don’t know the effect that death taxes or final expenses will have on an estate. Therefore, percentages work better, because it’s a percentage of what is available to be distributed.
Executor. This is the person who will take the will through the probate process, account for the decedent’s personal property, pay taxes and debts, and distribute the assets to the heirs, according to the will. Choosing an executor is an important decision. He or she should be trustworthy and knowledgeable about financial matters.
Guardian. A guardian needs to be named to care for minor children. This person should mirror the parents’ values and ideas as to the care and raising of the minor children. A relative or parent shouldn’t be selected just based on kinship. If a guardian isn’t selected, the court will choose one, and that person may not be capable of handling young children over the long-term.
Funeral Services. “Dad would have wanted it that way,” is often heard when making plans for a funeral. Maybe Dad did not—they’ll never know, unless you tell them. Want a big send off? Or maybe you’d prefer a small, family only funeral. Your executor and your family will not have to guess, if you provide them with this information about your wishes. One mom asked that everyone sing “I Did It My Way” along with Frank Sinatra at her funeral. The family was happy to comply.
Reference: Daily Advertiser (March 10, 2019) “Where there is a will, there is a plan in place“