The 6 Most Common Questions about Wills, Living Will and Power of Attorney
1. “Do I really need an estate plan?”
2. “What happens if I don’t have a will?”
Dying without a will (or having one that no one can find) is a super bad idea. In legal terms, it’s known as “dying intestate.” If this happens, your assets go into probate, where your state has laws that dictate who gets what. Typically, if you’re legally married, it all goes to your spouse. But not always and, frankly, sometimes things can get pretty weird. After all, if you don’t really see eye-to-eye on everything with your state in life, don’t expect the situation to be any different in death. Besides, probate can take years, and your estate may have to pay attorney fees and other things, which are best avoided.
3. “Where do I start?”
Typically people start with the will, because if you think about it, that’s the only document that’s guaranteed to get some use.
4. “Is it important to get help with my estate plan?”
We think so. You need a process, like GYST’s, that can ensure you avoid these common mistakes:
- Not doing one at all. (Congrats, you’re already here!)
- Not completing the process.
- Doing one incorrectly, which can result in the will not being legally binding.
- Leaving stuff out. People often forget about pets, businesses, or how to split assets among children.
- How and when assets and money are given. Some financial planners recommend spacing out payments instead of lump sums.
- Not updating your will when you have kids, remarry, acquire new assets, or make other life changes.
5. “Do I need a trust?”
Whether or not you need or should have one really depends on which state you live in and your individual situation. Trusts are often set up and included in a will because they help you avoid probate and get your assets more quickly into the hands of those you want to have them. Read more about trusts and revokable living trusts.
6. “Should I consult an attorney?”
While you are not required to have an attorney to draft a will, there are circumstances where doing it yourself may lead to problems. If any of the following circumstances are true about you, the America Bar Association advises consulting one:
- You, your spouse, or children have international citizenship.
- You own or have an interest in property in another state.
- Your assets exceed a certain amount (a few million usually, but changes each year).
- You or your spouse are getting re-married and could have complications with trusts, property ownership, or guardianship for your minor children.