In May 2016, a Gallup poll indicated that only 44% of Americans have wills, and that percentage has been dropping for the last two decades. You really don't want state law dictating how your estate is settled and distributed. An estate planning attorney can establish your will factoring in your wishes and specific situation.
If you are one of that 44% with a will, when was the last time your will was reviewed for accuracy? Over time, families change, estates change, and executors and beneficiaries may not still be available. And don't forget how federal and state estate and tax laws change. Review your will every few years or when one of these major changes occurs.
What Can a Will Do?
Most people know how wills can ensure that your hard earned assets go to the right beneficiaries when you pass away. But wills can accomplish even more such as:
Avoid estate, inheritance, or capital gain taxes
Wills often complement trusts to avoid these taxes.
Establish a trust
A trust holds assets on someone’s behalf. In wills, trusts are commonly established for minor children, so that someone else (the trustee) manages the children’s money until they reach a certain age when they can manage it themselves.
Trusts are also used in second marriages. A person may want to allow a spouse use assets while the spouse is living, but for those assets to ultimately pass to the decedent’s children from a previous marriage.
Name guardians for children
Typically, a will designates someone to raise your minor children if something happens to the parents. Make sure you specify at least one alternate in the event the first choice cannot serve as the guardian. A guardian does not have to be the trustee or executor, too.
Identify executors and trustees
A will can state who will be the executor of an estate to carry out a decedent’s wishes. Wills can also name the trustee of a trust established in a will. The trustee is the person who will be in charge of carrying out the specific instructions of the trust.
Outline who gets what
The most common purpose for a will is to name who will receive particular property belonging to a person when he or she passes away. A qualified lawyer can help you determine the most effective level of detail to include in your will so that your executor can fulfill your wishes.
Probate Court Decides if a Will is Valid
Probate courts uses a few specific rules to determine a will's validity such as:
- Age of person making the will - most states require that person be at least 18 years old
- Of sound mind - you must be mentally competent and not suffering from a mental illness
- Clear about creating the will
- Aware of what property the will maker owns
- Aware of the people related to the will maker who may be impacted by the will
These requirements apply only when the will is drafted. If someone creates a will and later becomes mentally incompetent, the will is still valid.
Wills Bring Peace of Mind
With just a little planning, you can develop your will and be on the road to peace of mind about what will happen should you pass away.
Contact us or call us today at 205-663-0281 for a free initial consultation. Our estate attorneys, John Holliman or Melanie B. Holliman (formerly Melanie B. Bradford) and staff will treat you like family while explaining your options and crafting your will.