Planning an estate is a very personal and individual matter. When you’re planning your will, you should think about the following issues:
- Who should be named as personal representative of your will?
- Who should receive property, and in what amounts? Are there any organizations, such as schools or charities, that you want to remember? Are there certain items of sentimental value that you want to leave to specific people?
- Should a trust be created for your spouse, children or others, and if so, who should serve as trustee, and for how long should the trust last?
Here are five advantages to consider when you are drafting your will.
1. You can specifically name the people who will receive your property and in what amounts.
The most important advantage of having a will is that the decedent (the person who dies) is able to direct not only who should receive his or her property upon his or her death, but also in what proportions.
It is important to remember that if a person does not have a will, the laws which govern the way property is to be distributed when someone dies without a will often direct the distribution of property differently from how the decedent would have wanted that property to be distributed. This is particularly true when people have children or when a person has remarried and has children from a previous marriage.
2. You can specifically give certain things to certain people.
In preparing a will, you can direct that certain items of property go to specific people. For example, you can give your home to one child and all of your other property to another child. You can direct that an heirloom piece of jewelry go to a certain child. You can also give property to people who are not related and who would not otherwise receive anything. For example, you can give your neighbor the old rocking chair he always sits in when he comes to visit.
3. Your estate can be distributed the way you want.
Having a will allows the distribution of your property after your death to take place more smoothly and in accordance with the way you direct your property to be distributed. In preparing a will, you name the person you wish to act as personal representative. This is the person who will carry out your wishes in accordance with your will. You can, for example, direct the personal representative not to sell the family home unless all of your children are fully grown or unless your spouse is also dead.
4. Your estate can be distributed more quickly.
You can also direct that the personal representative have “nonintervention powers,” the power to distribute your estate without the need to go into court before handling actions like selling property or distributing shares of property to your heirs. By giving the personal representative nonintervention powers, the distribution of your property can take place more quickly than it would take place if you were to die without a will.
5. A “trust” can be set up.
You can also create a trust will. This is particularly useful for people who wish to leave assets to those who may need assistance in managing those assets. You can put all or some of your property into a “trust” for another’s benefit, naming a specific person who acts as trustee. The will can specify how the trustee is to distribute the trust estate to the beneficiary. You can “pour over” proceeds from assets like insurance and pension and retirement benefits from your employment into a trust established in a will.
Drafting a will is an important and sometimes complex legal matter which involves judgment and skills attained from professional training and experience. It requires special knowledge and informed decision-making, as well as coordination with other estate planning instruments. A lawyer should be able to assist you by analyzing your individual circumstances and preferences and drafting valid documents to carry out your wishes.
For experienced and personal care in drafting your will and other estate planning documents, contact Stephen Katz at (206) 525-5500.