Preparing a Will and Testament is one of the best final acts a person can do for their family. Any time someone passes away without writing a Will their relatives have to make decisions they usually aren’t prepared for.
Writing a Will and Testament isn’t a difficult process and offers many benefits. First of all, the last Will lets a person have a final say in how their property is distributed. Without one, a probate judge has to abide by state law which requires property to be given to the surviving spouse or direct lineage heirs.
Secondly, the Will is needed to designate a probate personal representative to reconcile the estate. This position can be filled by anyone that is of legal age and never convicted of a felony offense. Personal representatives are responsible for all aspects of closing the estate.
Estate settlement procedures vary depending on if the decedent executed a Will or not, or if they transferred property to a trust. Estates are settled through probate unless a trust is used. Probated estates usually take a lot more time to reconcile than trusts. The process is delayed even further when a person dies without leaving a Will.
Estate settlement duties can include: paying outstanding debts; filing income tax returns; obtaining property appraisals; filing legal documents; and transferring inheritance assets to heirs and beneficiaries.
The last Will is also used to arrange legal guardianship for minor children. Wills are also necessary for providing directives regarding how inheritance funds to underage children need to be safeguarded.
There are several ways people can prepare Wills. The best strategy is to hire a probate attorney or professional estate planner. Specialists can help clients determine which estate planning strategies offer the best tax savings and protect assets from undergoing probate.
Individuals that don’t own a lot of valuable property might be able to make use of do-it-yourself Will kits that can be purchased online or from office supply stores. Essentially, these preformatted Wills are a template that only requires a person to fill in the blanks and have the document witnessed and notarized.
When using DIY Will kits it is recommended to have the form reviewed by a lawyer to ensure it is legally-binding and will hold up in court if challenged. Overall, the cost of executing a last will is nominal; especially for the peace of mind it delivers.
People who own their own business, real estate, titled property, and valuable assets may find it more advantageous to establish trusts. All property transferred to a trust becomes exempt from probate.
A variety of trusts exit so it is wise to seek guidance from professionals. One main benefit of using trusts is assets are often exempt from inheritance tax. Another is assets are quickly transferred to beneficiaries and estate reconciliation is swift.
Probate can take several months; especially without adequate estate planning. Most inheritance property can avoid probate by setting up assignment of beneficiaries for financial accounts and acquiring joint titles for real estate and automobiles. Property that is gifted using these strategies is exempt from probate and can also reduce estate taxes.
Executing a Will and Testament is vital when family strife exists. Family disputes over estate property can create turmoil that leads to having the Will contested. This is a costly and time-consuming act that can bankrupt small estates.
People can include no-contest or disinheritance clauses to lessen potential for family feuding. While few people want to exclude relatives, those that do need to follow legal protocol and obtain advice from an attorney.
Every Will and Testament is as unique as the person creating it. It’s best to hire professionals to make certain assets are fully protected and to take advantage of estate and inheritance tax savings. Take time to shop around and find professionals that answers your questions and listen to your needs.
Craton, Switzer and Tokar specialize in family law and estate planning. We strive to provide a personal experience for every client to address their needs. We invite you to contact us to setup a consultation or visit our estate planning blog to learn more about the importance of writing a Will and Testament.