While we understand that there it is never enjoyable to think about passing away, we do believe that it’s more important than ever to begin your estate planning as soon as you can. Regardless of whether you have a family or not, estate planning is often the clearest and surest way to ensure that your wishes get carried out even after you are gone. The number one way to get started is to draft up a will.
Your will is likely the most basic part of your estate plan, which will also include a financial power of attorney, a healthcare directive, and maybe a trust. As you write your will, you can name someone to be an executor or personal representative of your estate. They will be in charge of handling all of your affairs after you pass, including identifying and solving all of your debts, as well as filing your tax returns.
The Will to Write a Will
The bad news? Most people don’t create a will. This might be because we are afraid to talk about passing away, but it might also be because some people believe themselves to be too busy. People spend their time thinking about the present and the short term future. They don’t have time to consider possible accidents or passing away before they hit their late 90s.
However, should you pass away without leaving a will behind, this triggers intestacy laws. These laws mean that the state will be able to decide how and where your estate will be distributed once you are gone, as well as how your assets will be allocated. In many states, the estate will be divided between your spouse and your kids, should they outlive you. However, this is not all states! Some people assume that they don’t need a will if they want their spouse to keep everything once they pass, but this is not this case.
What to Keep in Mind
When making your will, we have a few suggestions to help the finished product be as complete and detailed as possible:
Don’t make it yourself.
While there are many websites out there that can offer do-it-yourself wills, this is a poor decision. Most people do not have a financial situation where they don’t need a lawyer. Also, these websites are not specific to the state, meaning that the nuances of your state’s laws may not be included in this build-your-own-will plan. Also, the will you build yourself is often not signed or finalized properly. When this happens, issues like choosing the executor or a beneficiary signed on as a witness, which means that either your witness and will are invalidated, or it prevents the witness from receiving anything from the will.
In order to successfully avoid making mistakes, lower your taxes, and save a lot of trouble and money for your family down the road, you will want to contact an estate lawyer. This is your entire life’s savings and belongings, so it’s important to do it right. Once you’re gone, you don’t get to revise the issues!
Identify all of your assets.
Before you meet with an estate planning attorney, take a good look at everything you own, including all of your financial assets. For example, your bank accounts, investments, credit cards, and retirement funds are all considered assets. If you don’t know what your assets are, then it likely won’t matter who gets them!
Of course, there are many assets that are not considered traditional properties. This includes digital assets, such as domain names or social media accounts that generate money. If you and your partner conceived a child through fertility treatment, your leftover frozen embryos might come into play and needs to be addressed.
Joint property isn’t included in the will.
There are several types of ownership, one of which being joint property. In this case, real estate and bank accounts will be shared by spouses. If this type of property is owned by someone who passes, they cannot distribute the property based on their will alone. Instead, the property passes to the surviving owner.
Property can be distributed by a will if they own the account alone, or if the property is defined as a tenancy in common. This is when the owners have a percentage of the asset. An example of this is when property is owned with siblings, in which case, the deceased person’s percentage of the property would not automatically go to the siblings. The deceased is allowed to decide in the will who should receive the property.
Be cautious while choosing guardians and trustees.
If you have kids, make sure that you name who their legal guardians should be in the event of your death. You will also need to choose a trustee to handle your child’s assets. If you have older children who won’t need a trustee, it might be best to choose a financial planner instead. If your children will inherit quite a bit of money from you, then they may not know what to do with all these added funds. Having a financial planner chosen can help them know how to plan for their own futures and their own investments.
Beneficiary designations override wills.
Accounts like IRAs, annuities, and life insurance do not pass through probate. The owners of these accounts can name beneficiaries to receive a document called a beneficiary designation. These designations supersede anything that has been put in the will, so be sure to review your beneficiary designations with your estate planning lawyer while you are planning your will.
When you are ready to begin your estate planning, it’s time to contact Law Offices of Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter is a native to Dallas and understands the intricacies of estate planning laws in Texas. When preparing for the future, it’s important to contact the top professionals to handle it for you. We can handle your situation and help you feel prepared for whatever gets thrown your way. Call us today for a consultation. We look forward to helping you get your affairs in order!