Most adults know that they need a will – but many people don’t understand how to go about creating one, and therefore they keep putting it off. In order to help you secure your legacy, in this blog entry we are going to answer five common questions relating to wills and probate.
1. Who needs a will?
If you have any significant assets at all, or if you have minor children, you need a will. In general, everyone should have a will! You cannot personally dispose of your assets or appoint a guardian for your children unless you have a will.
2. What’s included in a will?
You can assign personal property, such as cars, jewelry, and antiques in a will. When writing a will, you’ll leave specific property to specific beneficiaries. The will should include provisions about what should happen if your beneficiaries die before you do. Other common functions that a will performs include:
Appointing personal representatives. A will should appoint at least one personal representative to oversee your estate.
Establishing trusts. Sometimes trusts are created by a will, usually for purposes of gathering your children’s assets or for tax purposes. If a trust is created, trustees should be named. This process can be complicated, but I can help!
Appointment of guardians. If you have minor children, a guardian should be appointed in your will. This ensures that your children will be cared for by people that you trust.
3. What is probate?
Probate refers to the process by which an estate is administered and distributed. Probate is applied to any estate, whether or not there is a will.
In probate, the debts of the deceased are paid first, and then the estate is transferred to beneficiaries. The whole process is overseen by a probate court. Specifics vary depending on the situation, but probate usually includes inventorying the property, recognizing or appointing a personal representative, and notifying creditors of the death.
4. How often should a will be updated?
If you’re happy with your current will, there’s no need to update it, but major life changes – – marriage, a new baby, divorce, the death of a beneficiary – – may dictate that it’s a good idea to revisit your will. You may want to review your will every couple of years to make sure it’s still current.
5. Should my spouse and I have a joint will?
No. As separate individuals, each spouse needs their own will. Typically the wills will mirror each other, but will be two distinct and separate documents. Before choosing a joint will, speak to an attorney!
Wills and probate can be difficult to understand – but it’s very important that you protect your future. Please contact me today if you’d like help in this area!