Most people die without a Will, causing needless anxiety to family members who are often unfamiliar with the steps to take thereafter. The absence of a Will is often the beginning of a difficult, contentious or exasperating process for the family in determining how to administer the estate, what happens to the assets of the estate (often, the biggest fights are over property that has little economic value) and who is responsible for doing so. In the absence of a Will, when someone relates their prior experiences, the four words we hear often as attorneys are “It was a mess.” A basic Will should identify an executor, all beneficiaries and direct the disposition of assets. A Will may also select trustees or guardians, set up a trust, determine which beneficiary takes over a family business and on what terms, or even explain how the assets of a small business may be most profitably sold or how the business may be operated to maximize its value on sale.
Call us to prepare your Will and the other documents which are vital to an estate plan. As part of our estate planning package, we prepare a Will, at least one Power of Attorney (usually two), and a Health Care Directive (sometimes called a Living Will) for you, or in the case of a husband and wife, for each of you. Many people believe they only need a ‘simple Will,’ but after we explore your situation, it may be that circumstances require a more detailed plan: e.g.,
– you have children by more than one marriage,
– own a business in which some but not all of your children are involved,
– you want to provide for an adopted child, grandchildren or stepchildren, including adult stepchildren,
– you want to provide for a parent or sibling or charity,
– you want to direct certain specific assets (e.g., jewelry, a classic car) to certain beneficiaries,
– or make allowance for the possibility that some of your beneficiaries are not always responsible with money.
Your most important choice about estate planning is to consult with an experienced attorney. Tax laws concerning federal estate taxation are in a state of flux so unpredictable now (in 2010) that it is simply not possible to anticipate what the estate tax picture will look like in a few years. We are experienced in drafting Disclaimer Trusts within Wills, which permit your surviving beneficiary, often your spouse, to make important tax decisions at the latest possible time, in a way that maximizes federal estate tax savings. The use of trusts can serve a number of purposes, and if desired they can be drafted as part of a Will.
Call us. If you die without a Will, your estate will be distributed according to the intestacy statute of your state of residence, which means that the plan may be the state’s plan, not your plan. Your foresight will be of great benefit to your family.