What is a Will?
A will, frequently referred to as a “Last Will and Testament,” is a document you create and sign stipulating your wishes upon death. Anyone over 18 and of sound mind can make a will. One of the requirements is that the person creating the will must not be under the influence or coercion of someone else and be voluntarily creating their will.
One of the most common areas that a will addresses is who will inherit your assets following your death. Often, a personal representative will be named, and that person can ensure that your wishes are carried out as you stated in your will.
Another common aspect is to name a guardian in your will responsible for your minor or disabled children, should you have any.
What is an Estate Plan?
An estate plan is an all-encompassing plan that typically includes a will and several other pieces. For example, while a will generally is instructions regarding what to do after your death, an estate plan can help stipulate how you would like medical or financial affairs handled should you become incapacitated.
As an example, suppose you are diagnosed with dementia and are no longer able to or choose not to make decisions for yourself regarding financial or medical care. You can designate a person or people in charge of these critical decisions on your behalf.
One of the most critical aspects of an estate plan is to help those you leave behind to avoid as many tax implications as they can, confusion regarding your assets, and hassles with the probate process. An effective plan will review several or all aspects of your financial affairs so you can ensure that your loved ones won’t have much less than you anticipated due to unnecessary taxes or significant court fees due to the probate process.
Does Everyone Need an Estate Plan?
The short answer is yes; everyone should consider creating an effective estate plan. Whether you think your estate is significant or not may be irrelevant. If you own a home and a vehicle, have loved ones that you’d like to help plan and provide for, or have specific wishes for how you wish to be cared for medically should you be incapacitated, these are all excellent reasons to create an estate plan.
Tax implications alone may be enough reason to consider an estate plan. If you have a smaller estate that is less complicated, you may not meet the threshold for federal estate taxes, but you still may run into state estate taxes. By creating a plan ahead of time, you can help reduce or eliminate unnecessary taxes for your loved ones.
Is privacy important to you? Many people choose to undergo the process of creating an estate plan to avoid their information becoming public. With all of your assets or debts and family information going through the probate process, it’s easier for those you don’t know to access private financial information regarding your family.
Time savings is another attractive feature of having a plan in place. The probate process can take years to complete, and fees can quickly add up. An estate plan can help your family shorten the probate process, creating less hassle and costs.
What if I Pass Without an Estate Plan?
Without an estate plan, your loved ones will run into the issues of determining what you want for your assets, how to take care of taxes and endure the probate process. Although this isn’t ideal, it can be done.
If you pass away without an estate plan or a will, the courts will determine who ends up with your assets, most (or all) of which will be subjected to estate taxes.
If you choose not to work with someone on an estate plan for your family, having a will in place is even more important. You can address things like your inheritance so you don’t risk your assets landing in the wrong hands.
What if I Need to Make Changes to My Will or Estate Plan?
As life changes, so can our wants and wishes. If the will or estate plan you created no longer suits your needs, you can make adjustments to pieces of it, and in some cases, you can edit all of the plans you made. With the exception of a few items, such as an irrevocable trust, you can make changes as necessary to your estate plan so it can change and grow as your life and needs do.
It can be best practice to review your will or estate plan every few years to ensure that your beneficiaries are still up to date and relevant, that all of your assets are accounted for, and more.
Your Tireless Advocate
You’ve worked hard your entire adult life to ensure that you and your family are provided for. Creating an effective estate plan allows you to continue to provide for your family long after you are gone.
You are their tireless advocate; let us become yours. We can sit down with you to determine your specific needs and create an estate plan or a will that works for you. Don’t leave it to chance because you think the process is a hassle. The hassle will become that of your family when the probate process occurs, and you can avoid most or all of that with a simple and effective estate plan.
Contact our office today at 303-557-2011. Our team has many years of experience in diverse areas of family law, and we are prepared to help you continue to provide for and protect your family for years to come.