Do You Need A Will?

buy me pizza Who needs a Will?  Well, it is always important to have some sort of an estate plan in place.  The reason is because unforeseen events do happen regardless of how young or healthy you may be.  With that being said, though federal estate tax planning has become somewhat a thing of the past due to the $5.45 Million personal deduction and double that for a married couple, most individuals should, at least, have a Will in place, along with a Financial and Medical Power of Attorney.

The reason for this is that the relatively small cost of constructing these legal documents greatly outweighs the costs of not having them in place if/when they are needed.  A Guardianship or Conservatorship proceeding in the case of sudden incapacity, or administering an Intestate Estate (dying without a Will), would all require more time, money, and effort, than constructing a very basic estate plan.  Of course, by constructing your own estate plan you also make your own choices, instead of a court, which will make them for you in the absence thereof.

Related: Estate Planning Basics

Who doesn’t need at least a Will?  The answer is not too many people.  You would need to be single, without any minor children, truly not have anything of substantial value, and if you have any property at all that you want your beneficiaries to inherit, not really care about putting whoever settles your estate through the more restricted intestate administration process.

Children understandably complicate this matter.  If you have children (from newborns to young adults) it is also important to have either a revocable or testamentary trust (trust in your Will).  If you have a sizeable life insurance policy or valuable assets of any kind, do you want your children to have legal ownership of such resources while they are college undergrads?  The answer is no (for at least 99% of readers).  Establishing a basic trust is a cost effective way to put restrictions on situations like this and to appoint a Trustee to responsibly care for your assets until your children are mature enough to inherit them.  You can place your assets, life insurance, retirement accounts, and anything else you want into this trust, or have them go into the trust upon death through the aforementioned testamentary trust.

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It is my belief that anyone with a diversified asset portfolio should at least have his/her estate plan reviewed upon major life events and changes in the law.  At such times, you should also always make sure you have designated the correct beneficiaries on your retirement accounts and life insurance policies (this is especially true if the event was a divorce).  Also, if you are a part owner in a business, the partners need to periodically discuss exit strategies in case of an accident.  Everyone should also consider whether any adult children need restraints on inheritance, as a trust would also include creditor protections.  In summary, estate plans should be (1) implemented (for those who do not have one), and (2) reviewed periodically, to ensure the plan accurately reflects your intentions.

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