Last year when Prince passed away, estate planners were shocked to find out that he didn’t execute a will. He had a reputation in the legal world for taking care of his legal affairs hands-on. However, Prince’s situation is not an uncommon one. According to a survey conducted by Caring.com, about only 42% of Americans actually have a will. From that 42%, about a third of these wills lack clear terms.
The Problem With Having No Will
In a recent estate planning survey, most individuals claimed that they simply haven’t gotten around to making an estate plan yet. Their reasoning behind it varied. Some individuals claimed they were too young to have a will. Others believed they didn’t have much property or estate to worry about.
Dying without any type of will can bring on harsh consequences including a family battle between heirs trying to obtain substantial wealth. Some may feel more entitled towards what they receive and others may try to dictate who gets what. To make life easier for your heirs, consider the following.
Keep Calm and Write Your Will
No one ever said creating a will would be fun, but if you don’t have one, you need to create one. You should make a brief list of your current assets and liabilities. Some assets include items such as bank accounts, retirement accounts, real estate, succession plans for businesses, and investment accounts. Some liabilities include homeowner loans, student debt loans, and estate taxes. After taking inventory of your assets and liabilities, eliminate any items that are held jointly or held in a trust. Next, you will need to make a list of individuals or institutions that you feel you have an obligation to take care of in the event of your death. This could include direct family members, friends, or organizations you support.
After making such a list, you should decide what you want to do with your property when you die. You could leave it all to your spouse or give shares of your property to your children. If your property is being left to children, you must decide how old they must be before they are able to access it. You can also decide on any specific gifts you want to make to particular individuals or organizations.
Following these decisions, you must also appoint someone to carry out your will after your death. This person will be your executor. Be sure this person is well informed and agreeable to being your executor in your will. The executor’s job is a serious and time consuming duty. After naming an executor, it is important to decide who will take care of your children if you and your spouse are unable to. These people can be appointed as guardians of the children in your will.
While the estate plan process seems fairly straightforward, it can easily get messy without a professional estate planning attorney that specializes in wills and trusts. A professional estate planning attorney can review your will and help you make sure that your intentions are expressed the way you intended.
Create a Living Will Too
A living will is a separate legal document that differs from a will. A living will, also known as a directive to physicians, is a legal document that allows individuals to state their wishes for end-of-life medical care if they were to become incapacitated. It gives proper guidance to heirs so they are not left to guess what to do with a seriously ill person. When creating a living will, you must think carefully about what you want if you were to become seriously ill. You must consider questions such as whether you would rather live on life support or have someone pull the plug for you.
When you create a living will, you must first fill out a living will form. This living will form must be notarized and up to date with current US laws in order for it to be valid. A professional estate planning attorney can look at your living will form to make sure that it matches your specific state’s regulations. When it becomes valid, a copy of your living will should be sent to your physician so that it becomes part of your medical records. Creating a living will can put both you and your heirs at ease and prevent them from feeling any type of guilt or confusion.
Be Prepared and Think Ahead
Prince’s unfortunate circumstances show us that you must create a proper estate plan. If you don’t lay out your wishes, you are leaving your assets to your family in a situation you have no control over. Some family members may get more than they should, while other’s end up with practically nothing. In fact, dying without a will allows almost anyone to claim a right to your wealth. This includes individuals such as former business partners, ex-spouses, mistresses, and undisclosed children.
Meeting with an experienced and professional estate planning attorney can help you plan for your family’s future. Now is the time to think ahead. Contact Attorney Inna Fershteyn for legal assistance in creating a will or any other estate planning documents. Call us at (718) 333-2394.