Your will is an essential estate planning tool, and in many cases it’s foolproof—as long as it’s used effectively. Before you start drafting the next update to your will, here are a few things to keep in mind about what a will can and cannot do.
- It CAN control where your assets end up. When you make a will, you get to decide exactly where your money and property will go after you pass away. That means you can leave property to people who aren’t your heirs, leave specific property to specific people, and leave more money to certain beneficiaries if you wish. It also means you can keep property out of the hands of heirs who shouldn’t receive it, like those who already have a large estate or those who would squander it.
- It CAN’T escape probate and taxes. While a valid will can certainly speed up probate, it still has to go through the process. Your will is subject to probate and estate taxes. If you’re looking to skip the hefty taxes, consider opening up a trust to preserve more of your estate.
- It CAN let you put conditions on gifts. If you’d like to leave a gift for someone in particular, you can also require that person to meet a certain condition before they can receive the gift. For example, you might say that your grandchildren will inherit “X” amount of money if and when they graduate from college.
- It CAN’T make illegal requests. Your conditions can’t force someone to marry, divorce, or change religions, and they can’t involve an illegal purpose. You won’t be able to say, for instance, that your child will inherit as long as he or she uses the funds to start a drug cartel or divorce her spouse. Although this doesn’t happen often, make sure your will doesn’t encourage anything illegal.
- It CAN protect your children. By putting conditions on your gifts, your will allows you to protect beneficiaries who are too young or unable to handle their own finances. It also lets you choose a guardian for your minor children, instead of letting the state pick someone you would never have chosen yourself.
- It CAN’T gift certain types of property. Specific types of property cannot be given through your will, including property you own in joint tenancy with someone, property in a living trust, proceeds from a life insurance policy with a named beneficiary, and money in a pension or retirement plan with a named beneficiary.
If you’d like to do something specific with your will, you should consult a knowledgeable estate planning attorney. The friendly lawyers at Bedlam Law will always take the time to get to know you, your needs, and your wealth management goals. We will then craft a creative and effective plan to maximize the estate planning vehicles available to you—and protect your family’s financial future. Call us today for a consultation.