Discounting our mortality could have greater ramifications in our post-life years. Under this text, we will deeply cut through legal and other justifications as to why you should document how you would like your assets shared among beneficiaries. While a will is often dreaded as a constant tangible reminder of our mortality, its importance outweighs the fear in the sense that it prevents what is logically feared.
What is a Will and Why Should You Have One?
A will is a legal document that puts clear your wishes regarding how you would like to have your property shared among children or any legally qualifying beneficiary after you die. It is considered fluid and can be altered on an ad hoc basis until your death. It is important as it specifies who should and should not have a stake in your property.
A vital document in estate planning will give specific directions on how you want your estate distributed after death. Besides, will have provisions for tangible properties like jewelry, furniture, and the listing of the preferred guardian for minors. While there are numerous legal processes to operationalize a will, it is imperative to note the probate process which refers to the presentation and the execution of the will by the appointed executioner.
Types of a Will
- Testamentary trust or will. This is the commonest of all wills. You prepare the document and sign it before witnesses. A testamentary trust is described as the best insurance against successful contestations of your wishes by either the family members or business partners after your death. Although you can write it alone, it is advisable to seek the services of trusts or estate planning companies.
- Living will. This is a binding legal document that tells other parties what are your preferences or choices regarding end-of-life treatment. It clarifies the medical procedures that you would wish performed especially when unable to speak to your doctors. This could be in anticipation of such scenarios as scheduled surgeries under anesthesia or serious medical complications aggravated by a state of unconsciousness from an accident. A living will is differentiated from a medical power of attorney which merely involves appointing someone to make medical pronouncements on your behalf.
- Simple will. This is a legal document that allows you to outline how you would like your possessions shared after your death. As simple as it, a simple will involves choosing the personal representative or the executioner. It comes with less complex legal provisions and references to will statutes.
- Joint will. Refers to a legal document that is executed by at least two will-makers, mainly a husband and wife. A joint will merges distinct wills into one with a single testament. While they specify how parties wish their property shared, their two main components state;
I. In case one spouse dies, the rest of the properties registered under the couple are left to the living spouse
II. In the event the surviving partner passes away, the remaining assets should be left to the couple’s children.
Pronouncements of a joint will are strictly binding as no party can alter or revoke the terms without mutual consent.
Key Reasons Why a Will is Important
- While there are other effective estate planning tools, a written will is advantageous in the following ways.
- A will makes it clear about who gets his/her assets. Not only does a will decide who gets what, but it also quantifies the share of each beneficiary.
- In case you are involved in prolonged and irreconcilable differences with your relatives or business partners, a will helps to keep such parties out of reach of your property.
- A will gives you legal room to identify who should take care of your children after death. In events where no will, the matter is left to be determined by courts of law
- A will ensures the smooth and hassle-free transfer of assets to your heirs
- With a properly structured will you have a concrete plan to save your estate money on taxes? You can as well direct your gifts and charitable contributions in a bid to lessen your estate tax obligations.
Will Vs. Trusts
Within the context of a will, perhaps you have come across trusts and wondered how the two relate. A will helps reduce conflicts after your death by pointing out the beneficiaries and the formula of apportioning the estate. Trusts on the other hand are concerned with specific assets like a life insurance policy or a portion of your estate unlike the aggregated sum of your holdings.
Contents of a Will
A will covers all your belongings including but not limited to property, bank balances, and prized possessions. It directs how much material goods are to be distributed to your children, partners, institutions, or charitable organizations.
Covered under the will’s legal provisions are the outlier scenarios such as the beneficiary preceding the testator? In this situation, the estate reverts to the owner and afterward distributed as per the instructions of the probate court.
For the content of the will to be legally actionable, parties to it must have the testamentary capacity. They should be of sane mind and must have attained the minimum legal age. This ensures that you understand the nature of your pronouncements and the magnitude of their implications later in life.
The Process of Starting Your Will
The process of preparing an effective will starts with a compilation of your assets and debts. Be keen not to leave out contents of safe boxes and family inheritances that you desire to transfer to particular individuals or organizations.
If you have certain possessions that you wish to give to specific individuals, list them first. Recipients are usually captured in a special letter (letter of inclusion) which is an integral part of the will. This letter is considered to be less legal in comparison to the entire will. It comes with specifics that enhance the executioner’s easy times when performing his/her duties. The letter includes such details as account numbers, passwords, and even burial guidelines. Apart from this letter, other documents may direct the court on legal execution. They are referred to as extra addenda and include a medical directive, or the power of attorney.
Executing the Will
In case you die with a will in place, the executor shall present the legal document to the court clerk. He/she will then seek the court’s green light authorizing the subsequent executors’ management of the estate. This is what is referred to as the probate process. The executor in conjunction with the court administers the properties, identifies the beneficiaries and creditors, executes the distribution, and then files for any taxes or probate documents. Upon satisfying the concerned government authorities, he/she closes the estate. These processes are done with a specified legal timeframe. In case the executor is faced with legal challenges or conflicts in the process of discharging his legal mandate, he is at liberty to invoke a more formal legal process.
Corporate or Individual Executor?
You have the option for an individual or a corporate executor depending on the size of your estate. If the administration of your will requires expertise and long hours of work, it is advisable to get a corporate executor. For example, in instances where your will directs that sharing of trusts held by a financial institution, then such an institution is best placed to oversee the administration of the estate. Besides, corporate trustees are ideal owing to their vast experiences in executing such mandates. They have the requisite legal and technical expertise in handling all situations amicably.
- What are the possible implications if I die without a will?
In case you die without a state, it is described as an interstate scenario. The state is mandated to oversee the distribution of your assets based on a set formula. Mainly, half of your property is apportioned to your spouse while the remainder is distributed among your children.
- How do I prepare my will?
Although the process results in a legally enforceable document, the steps are easy. You can draft it on your own through specific websites like the DIY website that has ready templates. Witnesses of sound mind are required after drafting. Rules are diverse across states with some requiring legal notarizing.
- Is it possible to change the content of my will?
Yes, there are provisions under which the will may be changed. It is advisable to keep revisiting your will regularly, maybe after 2 to 3 years. A will can also be re-looked at critical moments of your life, for instance, during a divorce, marriage, childbirth, or death of the executioner.
A will is an incontestable necessity that sets forth your inheritance or dis-inheritance desires. It can tone down family, business, and other conflicts that are likely in the normal course of life after death. While their effectiveness cannot be understated, it varies depending on the type and the common understanding that the document may be limited in resolving the complex and multi-angled challenges that arise after our deaths.