Most Americans do not have a simple will as part of their estate plan. You might believe that a will is only for the rich and famous, and not the average person who has a far smaller net worth (NOT TRUE). On the other hand, you may think that a will is entirely unnecessary since you have a trust, jointly owned property, or have named beneficiaries on your insurance.
So, do you really need a will? The short answer to this question is “yes.” In fact, everyone who owns anything – no matter how little value it may seem to have – should have a will. This is because a will puts you in charge of directing others on your wishes and distribution of assets upon your death. Without a will or other estate plan – referred to as intestacy – you have no control and your state’s rules determine who gets what after your death. Even if you have a trust, jointly owned property, or have named beneficiaries on your insurance, a will is an important, even as just a “backup” plan.
So what is a Will?
A will is a written document that is signed and witnessed. It is considered a “death” document as it only goes into effect when you die.
- provides for the distribution of assets owned by you, but not assets directed to others through beneficiary designations (e.g. life insurance or retirement benefits)
- sends assets in your individual name or payable to your estate through the probate process
- allows you to appoint permanent guardians for your minor children
- names the person you wish to settle your estate (e.g. executor or personal representative)
- doesn’t always include protective trusts for beneficiaries and tax planning because many wills are simple 2-3 page documents
- permits you to revoke or amend your instructions during your lifetime
- tends to cost less than a trust on the outset but costs more to settle during court proceedings after death through probate court.
What Wills Can Do – That Revocable Living Trusts Can’t
- Name guardians for children.
Only a will – not a living trust or any other type of document – can be used to name guardians to care for minor children.
- Specify an executor or personal representative.
Wills allow you to name an executor or personal representative – someone who will take responsibility to wrap up your estate after you die. This typically involves working with the probate court, protecting assets, paying your debts, and distributing what remains to beneficiaries. But, if there are no assets in your probate estate (because you have a fully funded revocable trust), this feature is not necessarily useful.
We are here to help you
Do you need assistance getting your Will completed? We can help you get a plan in place and make sure your wishes are legally documented and that your family is protected, giving you peace-of-mind. To get started, call our office at (805) 518-9633, click below to schedule an appointment, or complete the form below and one of our team members will be in contact with you. We will help you determine whether a will makes sense for your situation. You do not have to make these decisions alone.
Please complete this form and one of our team members will get in touch with you
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