70% of Americans do not have a Will. After those Americans die, surviving family members will experience greater difficulties, more legal expenses, longer waits, and unnecessary probate costs all because the decedent did not create a Will. With a WILL probate is usually unsupervised, quick, and simple. Act now to write your own WILL and plan your estate.
More reasons to write your own Will:
- Wills are not just for the rich. Regardless of how wealthy or how poor you may be, a Will ensures that your personal belongings and assets will go to your beneficiaries according to your wishes. Without a Will, the probate court will make decisions for you, and at your expense.
- If you have minor children, your Will should appoint their guardian. Do you really want a state bureaucrat to decide who will raise your children?
- Few people plan to die in the near future, but if you die suddenly without a Will, you’ll be subjecting your family and loved ones to confusion and anxiety during what may already become a very difficult time. Often, there is a debate over what the deceased would have wanted. These debates can become divisive and nasty. Why cause all of that drama?
- If you die without a Will, the State has one written for you. The court names a guardian for your minor children and divvies up your assets according to State law. If you’re single with no dependents, your parents or your siblings inherit your possessions. Friends, companions, churches, and charities do not receive anything. If you have no relatives, the State takes your entire estate.
Probate Everyone who wants closure of their estate must go through probate. If you have a Will, informal probate is often used to close an estate. A decedent with no Will can experience extensive formal probate proceedings, attorney fees, and court costs. Even appointing your Personal Representative becomes difficult and expensive.
MORE ABOUT ESTATE PLANNING
Deeds & Titles: May be used to pass houses, farmland, bank accounts, cars, boats, or mobile homes to another party without a Will. These properties will avoid probate. Survivors take the death certificate to the deed/title office and transfer ownership to the survivor’s name. Having your Personal representative on your bank accounts gives him or her immediate access to funds that are desperately needed to pay for funerals, cremations, burials, wakes, and other immediate expenses.
Trusts: are completely unnecessary in the majorityof situations.
Your List: A typical Will divides your personal possessions “equally” among your surviving children. This method assumes that the children will be in 100% agreement regarding every item- often a difficult task. Arguments over who receives hunting rifles, sewing machines, antiques, and clocks can get so intense that an auction often must be held. At auctions, heirs may outbid each other for key items of property. Create a flexible list! Add delete, and re-assign your personal property as needed. If you make a list- you reduce the likelihood of family conflict. Your list saves on legal expenses because you do not have to re-write your Will every time changes are required.
Durable Power of Attorney: This is often a 10 page legal document which will allow your representative to conduct your personal and financial affairs if you become unable to do so.
Limited Liability Companies (LLC’s): Protects your home and private property from liability. Create an Operating Agreement to run your farm or business.
Patient Advocates: Appoint your representative as your decision maker in the event that you become unable to decide how the Doctor may proceed with medical treatment. The key issue: your Patient Advocate can decide whether to continue life support or not.
The County Probate Office: Your Personal Representative files a probate form to open your estate, compiles an inventory of estate property, pays bills, and then makes distributions according to the Will.
Retainer: My standard retainer of $2,500 is due during our first meeting and covers the following legal services: Will, List, Durable Power of Attorney, Patient Advocate, and anticipates unlimited telephone conversations/electronic mail to answer your questions.
Attorney & Professor Tom Fredericks