“I don’t really have any assets.”
“I don’t need a Will because I don’t have a taxable estate.”
“I don’t need a Will because everything I own is owned jointly or has a beneficiary designation.”
“I put everything in a Trust, so I don’t need a Will.”
These are common objections given by clients who do not wish to have a Will prepared. And they have often prevented clients and their families from being adequately protected when that protection is most needed. Here are some reasons why everyone should strongly consider having a Last Will and Testament prepared.
- For clients who have minor children, often a Will can provide for a testamentary trust to preserve assets for the benefit of their children. Many times, children who inherit property prior to obtaining certain ages that can be established by the Trust are not emotionally ready to handle their financial affairs at such an early age.
- Again, for clients who have minor children, often a Will can identify persons you would like to take care of your children after their parents are gone.
- For clients who believe they “don’t have a taxable estate,” discussing the specifics with an estate planning attorney can make sure that not only are estate tax concerns addressed, but also income tax and other potential tax consequences that are often overlooked. For example, leaving property to a beneficiary under your Will may provide superior income tax advantages than gifting it outright to them during lifetime. Those issues can be addressed with your attorney, and some of them may be able to be addressed better in your Will.
- Some clients believe that they have all of their assets tied up with beneficiary designations or owned jointly in a form where it will automatically pass to a survivor. But what if the survivor predeceases the client? What if the beneficiary designation wasn’t filed with the company? What if the beneficiary designation leaves property to someone who is legally incapable of owning the property, such as a minor? What if, despite best efforts, an asset or two or nine simply don’t have the beneficiary designation? These are very common mistakes that are made in these situations, and ones that having a Will can clarify and remedy. At worst, it is great insurance to have to protect against after-acquired assets or changes in beneficiaries due to death, divorce, or change in legal status.
- Using a Revocable Trust, or Living Trust, can be a very effective estate planning tool to avoid probate, and to ensure privacy, as the lawyers at Cartwright Law Center, LLC, can explain. They work very well, as long as all of the assets owned by the client are transferred into the Trust during lifetime; however, if there are any assets that are acquired or replace other assets already in the Trust, and these are not subsequently titled and transferred to the Trust, then you have a problem if you do not have a Will. Having a very good and effective estate plan ruined by having to open an intestate Estate (one in which there is no Last Will and Testament) can be avoided by having a simple Will prepared alongside the Revocable Trust.
These, and many other reasons dictate that a responsible client has a Will prepared as part of their effective estate plan. Contacting your estate planning attorney to discuss these issues with him or her is the first step to making sure that you are adequately protecting your family at a time when it is needed the most.