I often meet with clients who answer the question “Do you have a Will?” with a “No.” Upon further inquiry it turns out they actually do, but they don’t feel they do because it was prepared over twenty years ago or they don’t know where it is. What these clients fail to realize is that 99% of the time, an old Will is better than no Will.
A current Will is good, a complete estate plan with a Living Trust is better. Here are five reasons you need at least a current Will.
1) To revoke your prior outdated Will that you can’t find or no longer value. There are only a couple of ways to update your Will; 1) revocation in its entirety by destruction or executing a new one or 2) a codicil.
2) To name a guardian for minor children. A Will is the only document where you can name Guardians for your children after you have passed away. This decision if made in writing in a Will will most often be upheld and hopefully honored by those you left behind and the Courts.
3) To name your Personal Representative/Executor. The person you name has priority to serve as Personal Representative as long as he/she is otherwise qualified.
4) To state that your Personal Representative is not required to post a bond or in other words, may serve without bond. This means that a “nominal” bond will suffice, which is usually $100.00. If the Will does not state this, or you die without a Will, then your Personal Representative may need to apply for a bond to cover the entire estate value and pay a bond premium of hundreds of dollars. If the person does not have good credit, this can affect his/her ability to qualify.
5) To state who inherits your estate and perhaps who does. If you want to disinherit a person, perhaps a child from receiving your estate, you should explicitly state that in your Will. If it is unclear, then most Courts will not disinherit a child or if you may have children you are unaware of, a simple statement disinheriting unknown heirs will often satisfy the Court should the Will be contested. Of course, stating who specifically inherits your estate is also important. Otherwise the laws of intestate succession will govern. You can also state what happens to that beneficiary’s share should that beneficiary predecease you.
Don’t let the Courts dictate what happens to your estate. The first step is to make sure you have at least a current Will.
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