You need an estate plan, if you are over the age of 18 and you have property and assets that you want to leave to someone. Regardless of the size of your estate, it is critical that you have at least a simple will. A valid will gives you control over how your assets are to be distributed and how your dependents are cared for in your absence.
- You must be eighteen years old, and
- The Will must be 1) in writing, 2) signed by you and 3) witnessed and signed by at least two people.
Without an estate plan, a judge, who does not know you, your family or your wishes, uses state law to determine how your assets are distributed and who can manage your estate. This may directly conflict with your wishes.
What You Should Consider
- Who should receive my property? In what proportions? If there are children, at what age(s) should they receive their inheritance?
- Who should be named as guardian of my minor children? If you have minor children you should also consider a Child Protection Plan which names temporary and permanent guardians for your children.
- Should a testamentary trust be created for my spouse, children or others?
- Should insurance proceeds be payable to a Trustee? Spouse? Children?
- Who should I name as Personal Representative? Successor Personal Representative?
- Can I lessened or avoid estate taxes?
Changing or Revoking a Will
You can always revoked or changed your Will by executing a new one or by an addition called a “Codicil.” Written changes, such as additions, deletions, comments or marks, on the Will itself may invalidate it. Therefore, once signed, a Will should not be altered in any way without the assistance of an estate planning attorney.