While having a will is a vital aspect of your estate plan, it should not stand alone. If your plan solely relies on a will, there may be several headaches and costs your family will endure. Because of this, an estate planning lawyer’s primary goal is to keep your family away from any conflict and especially out of court. If there is only a will in place, your plan can lead to expensive, unnecessary, time-consuming, public court cases. Here are four detrimental reasons to make sure you establish more than a will as part of your estate plan.
A will alone is only in effect once you die. While it does protect your assets and ensure your wishes will be properly executed, this does not go into effect until you die. If you become incapacitated and are unable to make your own important decisions, a will is not going to protect you. Your family would have to petition the court to appoint a conservator to act on your behalf. However, if you have both a Financial Power of Attorney and a Health Care directive in place, your family can avoid the courts and whomever you named in those documents to act on your behalf may legally do so should you become incapacitated.
Court is a guarantee for your family. Having a will alone will not allow your loved ones to inherit your assets without court intervention, unless you own less than $166,250 of probatable assets. For your assets to be officially transferred to your beneficiaries, your will needs to first pass-through probate. While this may already be an emotional and stress filled time for your family, the probate process can be even more distressing. It could take up to months or even years to finalize, and the process could cost your estate tens of thousands of dollars if not more. It is also important to note that probate is public which does increase the risk of fraud and scammers, as anyone could look up the value and contents of your estate.
A will could leave your assets vulnerable to several potential threats. It does not protect against creditors, lawsuits, or poor decisions. If you choose to distribute your assets completely to your beneficiaries, the assets become subject to claims made by a beneficiary’s creditors. This will also make your assets vulnerable to possible lawsuits and divorce settlements. Lastly, it is important to know if the assets are left to beneficiaries without any conditions, your beneficiaries will be able to use and spend their inheritance however they want, exercising their own judgment.
Not all assets can be covered in your will. A will alone can only protect assets or property owned solely in your name. It cannot cover anything you co-own. For your assets that are set to go straight to a beneficiary by contract, those will not be covered by a will alone. This would include a life insurance policy or retirement account.
We encourage you to complete your estate plan to avoid the issues mentioned. A will by itself is not enough. At the end of the day, your family is the one who suffers as they would have to deal with the probate process while also grieving your passing.
Contact us today to get started with your consultation.