October 6, 2021
By Marissa Fitzpatrick, Published in the Buzz Book, Fall 2021
You might be thinking, “Everything that my spouse and I own is joint, so I don’t need a Will.” Or, “I don’t have many assets so there’s no need for a will.”
While not every Will is used, behind every Will is a person who planned for life’s uncertainties. Professionally speaking, it’s always better to have a backup plan.
Like homeowner’s insurance that covers fire or serious incident, you may never need it, but if you do, you are grateful to have it. A Will leaves nothing to chance. When you have a Will, your family isn’t left guessing or fighting about your final wishes.
Your Will and Minor Children
“Who will take care of my kids?”
Your Will and Long-Term Care
“Can I give everything away?”
Giving assets away is rarely the best option. Putting assets in someone else’s name may make it accessible to creditors, ex-spouses, bankruptcy courts, and more. You may be “penalized” if you need government assistance to help pay for long-term care.
Your Will and Probate
“Does my family have to go through the probate process?”
It depends. There are several strategies, such as listing beneficiaries or using a trust, to ensure that your assets transfer directly without the involvement of the probate court. These are all estate planning tools that complement a Will and are not necessarily replacements for a Will.
Owning a bank account jointly with someone (other than your spouse) does not replace good estate planning, and often leads to family feuds and court disputes.
To avoid the probate process, good estate planning with a qualified attorney is the most effective tool.
Your Will, Probate, and Costs
“What about costs?”
Attorney fees may be more reasonable than you think and depend upon the complexity of your estate plan. Discuss an attorney’s fee structure and understand charges for getting a Will written including where copies of the Will reside, and how to proceed following a death.
Do not fear probate. There are ways to navigate the process expeditiously and with ease. If you are involved with probate, contact an attorney with experience in these matters. Estate planning and probate attorneys will help you get through the process correctly.
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