A Will (Last Will & Testament) is a legal document that is a basic method for setting forth how you wish to distribute assets after your death, as well as who will be the guardian of your minor children. In order for a Will to be valid, it must be in writing and signed by two witnesses. If you don’t currently have a Will, your loved ones may not receive the assets you want them to inherit.
Who Needs a Will?
Everyone! This is a basic legal document that everyone should have. Specifically, a good time to think about getting a Will is in these situations:
You’re planning to travel.
You have minor children.
You participate in activities that could result in a serious injury, like skydiving, rock climbing, SCUBA diving, parasailing, etc.
You’re recently divorced, separated, or widowed.
You’ve been diagnosed with a serious condition or disease, like MS, ALS, or cancer.
Dementia and/or Alzheimer’s runs in your family (do not wait until you’ve been diagnosed).
You have changed your mind about who should inherit your assets (and how they will get them).
You found a Will on the internet.
Your Personal Representative named in your original Will is no longer available.
You currently don’t have a Will.
A Trust is a document that holds legal title of your property. For example, your Trust can be listed on the title to your home instead of your own name (this means your home is “in a Trust”). Revocable Living Trusts are simply Trusts you create while you’re alive, so you can have full control of the property “in” the Trust for the rest of your life. Testamentary Trusts are Trusts which are created upon your death. Wills may contain more than one Testamentary Trust and are great ways to control your assets long after you’re gone. Irrevocable Trusts are best for Medicaid planning and tax strategies, which is discussed here.
Advantages to creating Trusts include:
Asset protection for your spouse after your death.
Special needs planning for disabled beneficiaries.
Asset management and protection for children who have issues with budgets and money management.
Protection of assets if your spouse remarries after your death.
Disability planning in case you become disabled prior to death.
Asset protection for your children to ensure your assets don’t go to the in-laws if your children get divorced.
Keeping your affairs private (as opposed to Probate, which is public).
No court intervention or supervision required.
Plan for proper management of your business in your absence.