Over the last six months, our blog has spent some time discussing simple wills in the hope that it would shed some light on the state laws governing these documents and help drive home the message about just how important basic estate planning is for everyone.
We’ll continue our discussion in today’s post, exploring the issues of will preparation, and the appointment of both an executor and, if necessary, a guardian.
One of the things that causes people to put off the execution of even a simple will is their belief that they don’t know where to begin.
According to experts, however, all that’s needed to get the ball rolling on the execution of a simple will is the completion of some simple steps, including:
- Creating an inventory of your assets and your outstanding debts
- Determining your estate planning objectives (i.e., what do I want to accomplish?)
- Compiling a list of possible beneficiaries
Once you have completed these relatively painless steps, the execution of a simple will becomes that much easier for you, or the legal professional whose services you retain.
One major incentive for anyone to execute a simple will is that it allows a trusted person to be appointed to look after their children in the event of their untimely demise.
While yes, it’s true that a surviving parent will automatically become the sole guardian of any children, what happens if both parents pass unexpectedly?
Failure to appoint a guardian will mean the court makes this determination, meaning children may be cared for by a relative that you might not have chosen or even considered.
Another important element of executing a simple will that merits careful consideration is the naming of an executor, meaning the person tasked with ensuring that assets are distributed correctly, outstanding debts are paid fully and all other estate issues are handled properly.
Given the important role played by the executor, experts recommend that only those people who can be trusted — spouses, adult children, friends, attorneys, etc. — be considered for this position.
As with guardianships, the failure to appoint an executor means the court will make this decision for you.
We’ll conclude this discussion about simple wills in a future post.
If you would like to learn more about your options as they relate to simple wills or complex estate planning, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional.
Source: The Office of Attorney General Lori Swanson, “Probate and planning: Wills,” July 2014