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WHY IS IT EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO HAVE A WILL, AT ANY AGE?

A will can simply be explained as a ‘desire, choice, willingness, wish etc.’ of a person. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, a ‘Will refers to a legal declaration of a person’s wishes regarding the disposal of his or her property or estate after death.1 Thus legally, a will is a declaration wherein a person expresses his/her desire or wish of how the disposition of his/her property or estate will take place after his/ her death.

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After death, the property or estate of that particular deceased person can be dealt with in one of two ways. The first circumstance occurs when the person had previously executed a will. Where there is a valid will, the property will be disposed of according to its terms. The second circumstance occurs when there is no valid will, and thus in such a situation the state laws will apply and disposition of the property will take place based on these state statutes. Therefore, a will plays a very important role because it is one of the sole means of disposing your estate or property to your immediate family without any recourse to legal strife (besides probate court, of course) which can not only be time consuming and expensive, but also mentally exhausting.

However, if you follow our long stream of legal articles on the Verdict, you are most likely an expert in wills. Thus, we don’t need to bore you experts any longer on the intricacies of wills. Instead, we feel that we need to put extra emphasis into the importance of having a will. There are many reasons that can explain why it is extremely important to have a will.

    1. One of the main aims of the will is to carry out the disposal of your estate as desired or intended by the testator. In absence of a will, the property comes under intestacy state statutes. In the event that occurs, there is no guarantee that your property will be divided as envisioned by the deceased testator.
    2. Second, a will allows the appointment of an executor. Since the role of the executor is crucial in winding up the affairs of the property and estate, it leaves the testator at liberty to appoint a person who may be honest and trustworthy. In addition, keep in mind the executor does not necessarily have to be a family member.
    3. Further, under a will, the testator is also permitted to disinherit any person since it is up to the testator to decide how to dispose of their estate. A will is not effective until the death of a person, therefore it is flexible to amend upon unforeseen circumstances occurring.2

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The importance of a will can not be undermined; therefore, the role of the lawyer in drafting a will becomes very significant. At JUSTLAW, we use top lawyers from the best law schools to help you through your estate planning process. And because we don’t have fancy offices or years of bloat, we’re able to pass along incredible savings to you, the customer.  Our lawyers are well-versed in the technicalities of getting a complete will-based estate plan. They are on standby to act as an important resource to advise and answer any queries you might have.

With the effects of the pandemic continuing to loom large on society, create a will from the comfort of your home using legal services available online.

 

Estate Planning 101

Planning ahead of your death can be one of the most beneficial things you do for your family and friends. By creating a full and thorough estate plan, you have the ability to transfer your assets to your loved ones beyond death. An estate plan consists of a variety of documents and aspects that permit you to decide how to handle your property. The top attorneys over at JUSTLAWhelped us formulate a list of the top six things you must do in order to have an efficient estate plan.

 

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1. Execute a Last Will & Testament

This document is the cornerstone of your estate plan. There is no point in going through the rest of the steps, if you do not have a last will. It is a vital part of your estate plan. 

A last will handles all of your property after your death. In the document, you have the ability to bequeath, or transfer upon death, every piece of property you own to a specific person. Take this opportunity to give your house to your children, your car to your wife, and your precious art collection to your best friend.

The reason as to why creating a last will is so important is because it avoids intestacy. The laws of intestacy are put in place as default rules in the event you do not create a last will. Every state has their own set of laws on intestacy. These laws favor relatives and thus may not be in line with your wishes. Therefore, if you do not create an estate plan, then intestacy will not see through that your best friend receives your art collection.

 

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2. Execute a Living Will

Also referred to as an advance directive, a living will is a legal document that specifies the type of medical care you wish to receive in the event you become incapacitated and are unable to make those medical decisions yourself. In the document you can also express your wishes as to a variety of medical procedures including, but not limited to, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, mechanical ventilation (breathing tube), feeding tube, comfort care, dialysis, organ donation, etc. Do not let your family stress over what to do in this situation. Make your intent clear and fill out a living will for their benefit.

estate planning

3. Power of Attorney

Next, you should designate someone as your power of attorney. A power of attorney, or durable power of attorney, is a document that empowers someone to act on your behalf. Generally, an estate plan consists of two of these positions: Health care power of attorney and financial power of attorney. The health care power of attorney is addressed in the living will. However, in the event you are incapacitated, you can designate someone as your financial power of attorney, to take care of your finances.

4. Create a Living Trust

Otherwise known as an inter vivos trust, a living trust gives you the ability to name beneficiaries to your designated assets. The advantage of placing assets into a living trust over a will is that the trust avoids the lengthy and expensive probate process. A detailed description of other ways to avoid probate, beyond creating a living trust, are beyond the scope of this article, but there are some good, free resources available online. With this document in place, the named beneficiaries can immediately own and control the designated property upon your death.

 

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5. Protect your Digital Assets

Many folks spend significant amounts of time thinking about their personal property and how it would be handled in the event of their passing, but never give consideration to digital assets they’ve worked hard to create during their lives. The list goes on for the variety of ways that people use Instagram, Twitter, Tik Tok, blogs, and websites. These tools, when used correctly, can allow certain influencers to generate large online activity and, in many cases, significant revenue streams. State legislatures have gone a long way to helping folks protect these assets, as over 35 states have now adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Access Act. Yet while the legislatures have offered citizens the tools to protect these assets, very few online entrepreneurs have done so using their will-based estate planning documents. Under a will you can protect these accounts by assigning a beneficiary to control each account. If you’ve worked hard to build your sphere of influence online or even if you’re just an average person who wants your family to hold onto your personal digital assets, you will most certainly want to consider protecting these digital assets as part of your estate.

For example, you have probably heard of the singer, Prince. He among many other famous celebrities, died without a will. His heirs have ensured that his crucial mistakeof not creating a will stays in headlines for years and years to come. To date, not one of his heirs have inherited any of his estimated $200 million dollar estate. That all started thanks to a petition filed over four years ago back in 2016, initiating the case of In re the Estate of Prince Rogers Nelson. As part of his enormous estate, some of the more valuable assets include his numerous emails, tweets, social media accounts and other digital assets all owned in his name. In fact, it is estimated that as a result of this four year battle over Prince’s estate, both sides have built up administration fees upwards of $45 million. That is almost 25% of the worth of the entire estate.

Clearly it is extremely beneficial to create a will. Do not send your family into years and years of ugly disputes over something so simple. Please, create a will. Not only for your sake but for your family’s sake as well.

 

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6. Guardianship

In some instances, both parents of a child pass away at young ages. As new parents, one of the first things you should do after the birth of your precious little one is complete guardianship forms as part of your estate planning. The forms ultimately designate people of your choosing who will become the child’s guardian. Stated more directly, the guardian you choose will care for your child until he/she reaches the age of eighteen, in the event you pass away while the child is still young. This is vital towards ensuring the safety of your child by placing them in the care of people you trust.

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This article was meant to provide you with a summary of some of the most important components of a comprehensive will-based estate plan. It’s clearly not a substitute for a good attorney, and shouldn’t be viewed as legal advice. Hopefully, this information helps you create a thorough estate plan. Remember to always keep it current by updating your beneficiaries and any newly acquired assets. In addition, talk to your loved ones about your estate plan. And finally, remember that affordable attorneys are available online to help you through it.The law was meant to protect you, so do your part to make that true.

What has the pandemic taught us about estate planning?

As we endure the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our society, we are presented with a great time to take stock in our blessings and simultaneously plan for a better future. And what better way to do that, then work on your estate planning. If you do not have an estate plan, state law will determine who receives your property, which may not necessarily be the individuals to whom you wish to receive it. Even if you do have an estate plan, now is a perfect time to revisit and revise your plans. But in the meantime, it may be wise to consider the future beyond your lifetime.

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How can you plan for the future? Consider drafting an estate plan. Here are some consideration on doing so:

1. What is Estate Planning?
Before diving into the reasons why estate planning is so important amidst a pandemic, you must have a thorough understanding of it.

Everyone has an estate whether you realize it or not. An estate can consist of a house, a car, or even your record collection. It could also include your investments, checking and savings account, life insurance, furniture, and all your personal possessions. Unfortunately you can’t take your record collection with you when you pass away, so you’ll need to plan how it will be used beyond your lifetime.

That is where estate planning comes in. When we talk about basic estate planning documents, these documents include the client’s last will and testament and a revocable trust agreement, and these are the documents that memorialize how your property will pass in the event of your death. These documents essentially take you out of the state-mandated “probate” process. In addition to these documents, a basic estate plan will also include a durable power of attorney, a living will, a designation of healthcare surrogate, and a designation of a pre-need guardian. While a detailed explanation of each of these documents is beyond the scope of this article, we will be reviewing each document in future releases on The Verdict, so definitely stay tuned for more there.

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That’s an earful, to be sure. So let’s go back to your record collection to make sense of it all. While living, you need to decide who’ll receive the records and when they will receive it, and even how they can be played (only on YOUR favorite record player). And you need to do that for all your possessions. That is essentially estate planning in a nutshell.

2. When Should You Start to Prepare an Estate Plan?
The answer to the question above is very simple: as soon as possible! What are you waiting for? Plan ahead. You are never too young or too old to create an estate plan. Do it. Not for you, but for your family.

3. Understanding the Components that are Placed in an Estate Plan
There are two common misconceptions surrounding estate planning: (1) that it just involves gifting your property and (2) that it is only something the super-rich need to do. However, an estate plan goes far beyond just who receives your property. In fact, it includes a plethora of factors that you may have never thought would be included.

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a. Your children
As stated above, you are never too young to create an estate plan. Life has countless bumps along the way and thus you can never be prepared enough to embrace them. Therefore, your estate plan should include a provision on the guardianship of your minor children. This provision will set forth how you envision your minor children will be taken care of in the unlikely event of your death.

b. Financial planning
Someone will have to oversee your finances. You will want someone who you could put your full trust into, to ensure that your money is handled correctly.

c. Decision-making in the Case of Incapacity
Yes, your will could even include how you want your life to be handled in case you become severely ill. Do you want life saving treatments? Answer that question in your plan so that your family knows your wishes.

d. A Dispute Arises
Watch the movie, Knives Out, and you will immediately run to your will to include this provision on what to do if your heirs fight over your possessions. Including this provision will hopefully save your family from a huge fight that could potentially render familial relationships damaged, forever. This provision will establish that in the event of a dispute or disagreement among family members, you wish for them to send the dispute to arbitration, among other alternatives. Include it. Providing peace of mind for your family after your passing is of deep concern to most.

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4. Grasping State Law and its effects on Estate Planning
State law will have a profound effect on your estate planning. How so? It has the power to usurp your decision as to who will receive your possessions beyond your life. One example is that the state will decide who your possessions will go to, if you do not have a plan set forth. Stated more directly, if you have no children but do have an unmarried domestic partner, your estate would pass to your parents upon your death, not your partner. That could potentially create many issues for you that could be avoided, simply by creating an estate plan.

5. Take Advantage of What you Can Control
Our final lesson and takeaway from this article is to always take advantage of all opportunities you are presented with. Most importantly, take advantage of the easiest ones to control. For example, ensure that your beneficiary forms with your bank are filed and up to date. You should immediately amend them as well when you want to change your beneficiary. Remember, this also applies to insurance policies and even retirement accounts. There is no reason why you cannot have this done. It is easy, simple, and will save your beneficiaries a whole lot of trouble when you pass away.

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While we’d love to invite you to stop by one of our Peace of Mind centers, our physical openings have been delayed due to the pandemic. But you can still schedule a time to speak with one of our licensed will and estate attorneys by phone, video or chat for just $9. To do so, simply click here.