Many people never think to draft a will and far too many believe they don’t need one. Some see them as an otherwise unnecessary and complicated step in an otherwise simple process. Others don’t believe that their estate has the sort of value that justifies creating a last will and testament.
If you’ve wondered if you do need a will yourself, the answer is a firm and resounding yes.
By choosing to ignore estate planning, you open the door for confusion and disputes amongst your family members upon your passing. At ProvenLaw, our experts in wills and trusts have spent countless hours helping families just like yours ensure their wishes are met in their golden years and beyond.
Let’s break down the importance of a will in estate planning and address some next steps everyone should take when the time is right.
What Is A Will?
In our time as attorneys, we’ve found people don’t always understand the full purpose or capacity of a will. They know that it’s a form of asset distribution (which is correct) but are unaware of the many important things a will can do.
Ensuring that your assets get distributed to who you want and how you want is the most popular common understanding of the purpose of writing a will. However, you can make other essential instructions with the same document. For example, if you have children, your will can dictate custody and child care matters upon your passing.
There are supporting documents which are typically included with a will that benefit you while you’re still alive. The supporting documents include medical directives should you find yourself in a position where you can no longer care for yourself. You should also designate power of attorney, or POA, to allow someone to make a legal or financial decision on your behalf if the situation calls for it.
By making your will more comprehensive, you can clarify your wishes in many different scenarios and have them legally enforced.
Can I Write My Own Will?
It’s best practice to have an estate planning lawyer help you draft your will. An estate lawyer will help you draw up the document to your exact specifications and ensure that it is legally recognized.
There are other reasons you should let an expert help you write your will:
- Not all wills, written or otherwise, are recognized by law. A testamentary will is one written by you and signed by you in front of witnesses, who also sign it. A testamentary will is considered the strongest enforceable will in the United States. A will that is written and signed without witnesses is legal in some states but often heavily disputed. Oral wills, even with witnesses, run into even more trouble and are not recognized in most states.
- You’re likely to forget something vital in your will. We find this is especially true for larger or more complex estates. Whether you have many different types of assets or an estate with high value, an estate attorney will help you go over all your accounts and property so that nothing you want to include gets forgotten.
- The probate process can become very complicated. A probate lawyer wears many hats when helping clients. They can help evaluate assets, file paperwork with the courts, assist the personal representative in managing financial accounts, and timing of distributions.
What Happens If I Don’t Have A Will?
A will lays out unambiguous instructions to follow in the event of your death or incapacitation. While it can be challenged in court, working with an estate planning lawyer will ensure that your will is valid and followed. However, it falls on the courts to decide how they should settle your affairs without a will in place, and it can get quite messy, adding undue stress to your loved ones in an already difficult time.
When it comes to distributing your assets, your spouse and children usually take priority, but not always. With child custody issues, courts will do what they believe is in the child’s best interest, which often means seeking out a relative. Such an option may seem fine on paper, but it can lead to upset survivors’ challenges and cause family disputes.
It can also lead to the uncomfortable scenario of someone you don’t want becoming a beneficiary. Simply put, without drawing up a will with an estate lawyer, you are leaving control of your estate’s distribution to someone else, and perhaps even the state. The only recourse is if someone argues on your behalf, but without evidence (which a will serves as), they’re in for an uphill battle.
In a sense, hiring an estate lawyer to help you write a will is just as much about protecting your family as it is anything else. Choosing to take control is the best way to ensure that you can help and care for your loved ones, specifically upon your passing. Spending the time to plot your instructions carefully and fully shows that you care and removes any ambiguity about your intentions.
Plan For Your Future Today
Dealing with death and planning for what comes after can be difficult and uncomfortable, but it doesn’t have to be.
With ProvenLaw, you can work through these complexities together with expert legal counsel and get the help you need to decide on the delicate estate planning choices you will need to make to ensure that your loved ones are well cared for in the event of your passing.
Whether you need to adjust an existing trust or are looking to create a new will, please contact us for your complimentary personal consultation and we’ll get you on the road to peace of mind.