Estate planning and writing a will aren’t necessarily topics that many people want to think about. Whether you already have a will or aren’t sure how to get started, find out what estate planning is and why it matters for you and your loved ones.
What Is Estate Planning & Why Does It Matter?
Estate planning is defined as the instructions for estate asset disbursement to heirs at the owner or author’s death. This includes drawing up a will, setting up trusts, and gifting property. It is such an important topic because no matter how small your estate may be, planning ensures that your property and assets will go to the people you choose and care about the most after death. While there are many occasions to start estate planning, such as marriage, divorce, childbirth, adoption, or retirement, it’s best to deal with estate planning sooner than later. There are several reasons why.
Estate Planning for Your Peace of Mind
When someone dies without a will, they are said to have died intestate. While each state has specific intestacy laws to help determine where one’s assets go, as a general rule, intestacy laws favor your spouse and your children by giving them your entire estate after passing. If you do not have a spouse or children, then the intestacy law works to distribute your estate to other close relatives. It is not only important for you to have your estate planning documents in place; it also helps your loved ones properly take control of your assets upon death. The best way to ensure your final wishes are carried out is to have a legal will. Even if you aren’t completely sure what you want to do with your property and assets, it’s better to work something out now with an attorney so the state doesn’t have to work it out for you. Ready to get started on your will or estate plan? Contact April Gatlin to set up an appointment.
Estate Planning for Your Family’s Sake
There are many ways that probate law can cause or deepen a divide between family members. One example of this is when there are two feuding family members who argue over the decedent’s intentions or state of mind at the time of writing the will. Sometimes it’s because one family member may have been the main caretaker of the decedent, and the decedent had a will where they left that caretaker more than other family members. The other family members feel like they didn’t get their “fair share” or they feel “left out.” This often leads to a challenge that the decedent was not of sound mind when they made the will, or that they were coaxed into it by the caretaker. Other common issues include:
- Multiple wills
- Holographic (or handwritten) wills
- Last-minute wills and soundness of mind in making a will or changes to a pre-existing will
- Unclear or inconsistent instructions from decedent
- When the decedent is a part of a family-owned or small business
- Grieving relatives
- Who actually owns the assets and real estate
- Debts left by the decedent
- Step-children and adopted children
- Ex-husbands and ex-wives
- Boyfriends or girlfriends of the decedent
Creating a will and estate plan early on can help prevent or decelerate these kinds of issues, should they arise.
Estate Planning for Your Children
If you have children who are minors, it’s important to address what will occur if both parents die. A guardian and an alternate guardian for your children must be named. You may want to set up a trust provision to help provide money to the children over time, in which case you need to name a trustee. That should be someone you trust and who is good with money so that they can manage the trust. Your attorney can help you appoint guardians and trustees so you won’t have to worry about what would happen to your children in the event of the unimaginable.
Start Your Will Today
Everyone needs a will. At Gatlin Voelker, our probate and estate planning attorneys can help you write, review, or edit your existing will and estate plan, and can help you ensure that the people you have chosen for the roles of executor, guardian, trustee, and more are still able and willing to accept those roles. Contact us today to make your appointment.