Death is not a topic that most people want to discuss. It is nevertheless a reality that must be confronted and planned for. Your mortality is one of the essential truths of your life. And if you have lived the kind of fortunate and productive life that has allowed you to accumulate significant assets, then you need to start thinking about how they will be divided and distributed on your departure.
Creating a will is the best way to do that. A will ensures that your money, real estate, investment holdings, and other assets are given to the individuals you choose. Without such a legal instrument, your estate will be given over to the probate courts. A judge will be given the power to determine who gets what, and their choices may not reflect your wishes.
You should make it a priority to create a sound and valid will. To do that, you will need the help of a lawyer who specializes in wills and estates. But before you hire a lawyer you need to sort through a few matters on your own.
Steps to Take Before Hiring a Will Lawyer
1. Putting Your Company First
If you have spent your life building up a business that has enjoyed remarkable success, you want to ensure that it continues to prosper after you have passed. Nominating a successor and training them to replace you once you have stepped down is the best way to do this. You will also need to ensure that your successor has the power to retain enough capital to keep the company going and that any family financial interests in the company are kept separate from executive decision-making.
2. Who Gets What in Your Family
You will need to think long and hard about who you want to get which assets. You may have already made up your mind on this issue. If not, you may want to speak with close friends and advisors. Speaking with potential beneficiaries is precarious, as they are unlikely to give you objective advice.
You may decide you need to set up a trust and create a will. A trust establishes a fiduciary relationship in which you as the trust or name yourself as trustee to distribute money assets to third-party known as a beneficiary. Establishing a trust reduces paperwork and estate tax; it makes it easier for you to distribute your assets as you see fit while you are alive.
Snares and Pitfalls
Even if you establish a trust and set down your clear intentions in the it, things can go wrong if you die without a legal will. Hiring a will attorney will ensure you don’t miss anything.
If you have a trust, you still need a will. The latter must include a complete estate plan for the distribution of your assets. One of the most common things left out of a trust is the family home.
This is an easy error to make, especially if you have a range of assets of very high value. Indeed, the family home may be one of the least valuable things in your portfolio, but its sentimental value can cause tremendous conflict in your family if you do not state who is to take possession of it after you pass.
You may have originally put the family home in the trust, and then had it removed to re-finance it. However, if you do not transfer the house back to the trust before you die and do not mention it in your will, then its disposition will need to be settled in probate court. There are ways around this. It may be possible for a lawyer to argue that your intention was for the family home to be part of the trust. If the right documentary evidence is submitted, the judge will rule to that effect and the home will go to the person originally designated in the will.
To avoid such snares and pitfalls, it is necessary to hire a will lawyer who will look at your trusts and the entirety of your estate and ensure that your assets go to the people you want them to.