“I just need a simple will.” It’s a phrase estate planning attorneys hear practically every other day. From the client’s perspective, there’s no reason to do anything complicated, especially if it might lead to higher legal fees. Unfortunately, what may appear to be a “simple” estate is all too often rife with complications that, if not addressed during the planning process, can create a nightmare for you and your heirs at some point in the future. Such complications may include:
Probate – Probate is the court process whereby property is transferred after death to individuals named in a will or specified by law if there is no will. Probate can be expensive, public and time consuming. A revocable living trust is a great alternative that allows your estate to be managed more efficiently, at a lower cost and with more privacy than probating a will.
Minor Children – If you have minor children, you not only need to nominate a guardian, but you also need to set up a trust to hold property for those children. If both parents pass away, and the child does not have a trust, the child’s inheritance could be held by the court until he or she turns 18, at which time the entire inheritance may be given to the child. By setting up a trust, which doesn’t have to come into existence until you pass away, you are ensuring that any money left to your child can be used for educational and living expenses and can be administered by someone you trust.
Second Marriages – Couples in which one or both of the spouses have children from a prior relationship should carefully consider whether a “simple” will is adequate.
Taxes – Although in 2012, federal estate taxes only apply to estates over $5 million for individuals and $10 million for couples, that doesn’t mean that anyone with an estate under that amount should forget about tax planning.
Incapacity Planning – Estate planning is not only about death planning. What happens if you become disabled? You need to have proper documents to enable someone you trust to manage your affairs if you become incapacitated. Effective Oct. 1, 2011, there is an entirely new statute governing Durable Powers of Attorney.
By failing to properly address potential obstacles, over the long term, a “simple” will can turn out to be incredibly costly. An experienced estate planning attorney can provide valuable insight and offer effective mechanisms to ensure your wishes are carried out in the most efficient manner possible while providing protection and comfort for you and your loved ones for years to come.