Do I Really Need a Will?
You may not think of yourself as the sort of person who needs a detailed estate plan. Perhaps you don’t have complicated finances or investments, so you assume you don’t need one. Or, perhaps you think that listing your heirs on the titles to large and important assets is the best way to convey those assets to them, rather than through a will. However, a will allows you to convey your assets with greater control, so that you can be confident that your wishes are carried out upon your death. Read on to learn some of the most important reasons to consider making a will.
Avoid Intestate Succession
You should get to decide where your money goes, not the state. When you die without a will—known as dying intestate—your money will go to your legal heirs in descending order of closeness. If you’re married with children when you pass, then your estate will be divided between your spouse and any surviving children. If you have no children, then part of your estate will go to surviving parents, siblings, grandchildren, and so on, until it is distributed. Distribution of your estate according to these rules keeps you from giving to close friends or causes which you care about through your will. Additionally, if it is important to you that certain treasured possessions are passed to particular loved ones, the only way to ensure that these gifts are made according to your wishes is through a will.
Avoid Probate through Creative Strategies
Creating an estate plan allows you to consider alternative ways to convey assets. You might think you are helping your heirs to receive their inheritance sooner by saving them from the time and expense of the probate process. However, there are many ways to convey your assets through an estate plan that will not need to go through probate, and your attorney can guide you through the process of selecting ways to give gifts that are best for you and your family. For example, if you convey assets to a living trust, those assets will not need to be probated before your heirs receive them and your heirs will avoid the hassle and expense of going through the probate process.
Not speaking with an attorney first can lead you to make mistakes. It might seem fastest for you to simply list your desired heirs as beneficiaries on bank accounts or life insurance policies, or as a joint owner of property. However, this could cause additional problems for you and the inheritor. For example, if an heir receives a large sum of money from a life insurance payout, this could create a substantial tax burden for the heir that could have been avoided by using a life insurance trust. Additionally, if your heir is young, a lump sum of money with no restrictions on its use might be more than that individual is capable of responsibly managing. Finally, joint tenancies can come with restrictions on the sale of that property during your lifetime, and gift tax consequences. Instead of making guesses at what would be best, get an attorney’s help to ensure that your final gift to your loved ones is best for both you and them.
If you are seeking a skilled and experienced estate planning attorney in Kentucky, contact the Louisville wills and estates attorneys at John H. Ruby & Associates for a consultation at 502-459-4216.