1. Who Should Receive the Estate?
For some, the passage of property equally to their descendants is the norm. However, each family dynamic is different, and your estate plan should reflect the same standards and ideals that you act on today. Many clients like to include friends, charities and other organizations that they deem important and deserving. In the absence of a Will, your heirs will receive your Estate under a system designed by the legislature. A well-drafted Will is not so rigid, and can be tailored to fit your wishes precisely.
2. Who Will Manage the Estate?
With a well-drafted Will, the person of your choosing can administer your Estate largely free of supervision by a Court. They will gather up the assets of your Estate, pay any proper debts and distribute the remainder to your beneficiaries. When selecting the person to fill this role, it is wise to consider their age, ability to handle professional matters and their relationship to you and the beneficiaries that they will ultimately have to deal with. Their position is one of trust and confidence, and the task of picking the right person is as important as the tasks that they will be asked to carry out.
3. What if the Beneficiaries are Young or Incapacitated?
Estate planning focuses on contingencies – the “what ifs” of life. Some are more likely than others. What if my spouse dies before I do? What if our children are minors when I die? Good planning can provide good answers. Your Will might include provisions that nominate guardians for minor children. It might include trust provisions to ensure that property received by a minor is held and used for their benefit until they reach a specified age. Rarely can a contingency not be planned for when a well-counseled client sits down to execute an estate plan.
4. What Happens to the Non-Probate Assets?
Many of the largest assets in an Estate are not even technically part of the Estate. They pass to designated beneficiaries pursuant to an agreement with a life insurance company or a retirement plan administrator. The best estate plans harmonize these probate and non-probate assets. For example, where one child is provided for significantly by a life insurance policy, the Will may balance things out by favoring the other child a bit more with other assets. Many clients fail to update their beneficiary designations when they sit down to revise their Wills, but the decisions made in regard to these documents are as important as those that you will make when creating your Will.
5. What if the Beneficiaries are Unhappy with my Choices?
Estate disputes happen. In most cases that I have encountered, the seeds of Will Contests and beneficiary fights are sown long before the testator even dies. Clients know their families better than a lawyer, and some frank and open family discussions may avert situations like this. But well-drafted Wills typically go a step further to include provisions that discourage fighting among beneficiaries, just in case. Your estate plan should please you, and it should be executed in a manner that best protects the decisions that you have made concerning your legacy.