Elder Law Group Blog

Estate Planning Basics: What Your Will Does Not Accomplish

Apr 12, 2015 | News

When considering Estate Planning, many people think having a Will is enough to ensure their estate will be distributed as they wish and meet the needs of loved ones who survive them. A Will indicates your desires regarding certain types of real and personal property, but not all property. A Will is a good way to appoint a guardian and set up a supplemental needs trust for a surviving spouse or disabled children who might receive public benefits, or for minor children or grandchildren.
However, there are some things a Will cannot do. It is important to speak with an elder law attorney who can help you create a complete plan to ensure your assets are protected and your wishes are carried out. In this blog entry we identify several ways a Will, by itself, may not be enough.
Having A Will Does Not Mean You Avoid Probate
Probate is an often misunderstood process, and will be the subject of a future blog post. Until then it is important to know that ease of post-death administration is part of Estate Planning with your elder law attorney. Sometimes probate of a decedent’s estate is an appropriate and advantageous process depending on the circumstances and status of property when someone passes. In certain situations, a simple affidavit process will enable a sole heir to more easily conclude the business of the estate. In addition to executing a Will, you will want to work with your elder law attorney to plan, according to your unique needs, for the least expensive, yet most beneficial process to settle your affairs.
A Will Does Not Control or Preserve Certain Assets
A Will has no effect over certain types of assets, such as IRAs, 401(k) Plans and insurance. For each of these asset types, you name a beneficiary who will receive the asset’s death benefit when you pass. Property held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship or payable on death to another will become the property of that person when you pass. It is critical that financial institutions and administrators of these assets have the correct information regarding your beneficiary designations. It is very important to plan for these types of assets with your elder law attorney, as for many people, these assets comprise the bulk of an estate.
A Will Is Not the Best Tool to Memorialize Your Funeral or Burial Wishes
As part of Estate Planning with your elder law attorney, you may want to memorialize your funeral or burial wishes. A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare allows you to extend the power of your Attorney-in-Fact to handle funeral and burial planning and decisions. Also, you should write down your wishes in a separate letter to be kept with your Estate Planning documents. You also may prepay your funeral and burial by purchasing a prepaid plan.
A Will May or May Not Reduce Estate Taxes
If your estate will be subject to state or federal estate taxes, then a Will is one tool available to a couple to minimize these taxes upon your death. Planning ahead is critical. Ask your elder law attorney for advice or a referral to the appropriate tax attorney or financial advisor. These professionals will work as a team to ensure that your estate is preserved and the taxes it pays are no more than necessary according to the law.
A Will is an important part of most people’s estate plan. However, for some it is just the beginning of a plan to preserve assets, distribute your estate as you wish and ease post-death administration. These are just some of the considerations aside from executing a Will that are part of a comprehensive estate plan you can create with your elder law attorney. Please contact us today to learn more!

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