Want to know how complex your estate plan might be and/or whether a simple Will only is the best estate plan for you?
Answer the following questions either Yes or No:
- Are you married?
- Do you and your spouse disagree on how to divide your joint and individual estates?
- Do you have minor children (under age 18) who will inherit from your estate or need a guardian to look after them or their property should you die?
- Do you have children from more than one spouse or partner or children from a prior marriage and a current spouse or partner?
- Do you own significant assets (say, over $1 million)?
- Do you have heirs (e.g., a child) you wish to disinherit?
- Are your family dynamics complicated, and is there a chance that your will may be contested after your death?
- Are there any special situations or problems in connection with your estate, such as:
(a) support for an elderly parent;
(b) a special needs child;
(c) a child with financial difficulties;
(d) a beneficiary in an unwise marriage; or
(e) a beneficiary who may suffer a financial reversal.
- Do you want to leave a portion of your estate to charities or nonprofit organizations?
- Do you own a small business, have large stock interests in a company, or have other complex business assets?
- Do you want to make more complex plans for what happens to your property (e.g., leaving your house in trust to a spouse and then on his or her death having it pass to your children)?
How many times did you answer Yes?
1 – 2 times
You should at least talk to an estate planning attorney. If you are single, have no minor children, and have minimal assets, a Will may be sufficient. In addition, you should be aware that even a basic estate plan requires more than a Will. You should also have a durable power of attorney for property appointing an agent to manage your property and finances in the event you are no longer able to do so; a living will expressing your wishes for end of life care; and a health care power of attorney appointing an agent to make health care and medical related decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself.
3 – 6 times
Hire an attorney or at the minimum, speak to an attorney about your situation. You have some complex estate planning issues which you ought to at least discuss with an experienced estate planning attorney. A consultation is especially suggested if you answered YES to questions 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10 or 11. A consultation will enable you to better understand how the law may affect your estate planning goals. Some attorneys will provide an initial consultation at a flat rate.
7 – 11 times. What are you waiting for? You should have had your estate plan created already. Call your attorney for an appointment immediately. You potentially have some complex estate planning issues. Estate planning, if done poorly or incorrectly, can have dire consequences. Beneficiaries may not receive what you intended them to receive, your estate may pay more taxes than necessary, and your minor children may not be adequately provided for.
The list of unintended complications and catastrophes caused by the lack of an adequate plan or having no plan at all is very long. Every year thousands of cases go to court where wills are challenged because of inconsistencies, contentious family dynamics, or failure to follow required formalities in execution. If you have many of the complex issues outlined above– for example, a second marriage, minor children, large estate, a business, special needs beneficiary, or a trust, consulting with an attorney is in your best interest.
State laws are very specific about what can and cannot be stated in a will and other estate planning documents such as a trust, or health care or financial power of attorney; who can and can’t serve as a personal representative, trustee, health care surrogate or attorney in fact; who can and can’t be a witness to a will, trust, or health care or financial power of attorney; and what formalities must be observed when signing a will or other estate planning documents. A qualified estate planning attorney will ensure that you are not tripped up by the complexities of various laws that apply to your property and estate.
Stay away from online services and forms, and avoid the do-it-yourself path. Many of the online templates are generic and have blanks for signatures, a notary, and witnesses, but this does not mean they conform to your state’s execution requirements. All online will generation sites, as well as pre-packaged fill-in-the-blank wills, come with legal disclaimers to consult with an attorney if you have questions.
Call Donald L. Sadowski, P.C. today at (847) 881-3793 to schedule your Family Wealth Planning consultation.