You need a will to describe where you want assets to be distributed and who you want to handle vital roles in caring for your children and handling your estate.
Some people mistakenly think that not having a will allows their probate assets to bypass the time and expense of probate. No, that is not true. Some people think that having a will also avoids probate. That is not true either.
Probate assets are those assets with no surviving joint owner, designated beneficiary, or are not titled in a revocable living trust.
If you die without a will, your probate property still must go through probate, says Fed Week’s recent article entitled “Expressing Your Will with a Will.”
Therefore, you need a will. If probate avoidance is a concern, you can ask an experienced estate planning attorney about utilizing various non-probate transfer methods, to include creating a trust. If you have a revocable living trust, you can keep control over the trust assets while you are alive. The assets placed in revocable living trust during your lifetime can be distributed at your death, under the terms of the trust, without the requirement of probate.
Once you have an executed will, you cannot simply forget about it. Special life events, such as births, adoptions, deaths, marriages, and divorces, all may require you to revisit your will. After each change, make certain that your current will is both safe and accessible. Your executor and other loved ones should know that location where you keep your will and have access to any codes or keys needed to access it. The estate planning attorney who prepared your will should have a copy. You may wish to leave a memo revealing the location of the original both with your family and your attorney.
Regardless of where you put your will, you should create a separate document for your funeral and burial instructions. That is because wills typically are not read until days or weeks after death.
A separate letter should be used to specify your final wishes and your executor should know where these instructions are located. These arrangements include seeing if there is a pre-arranged funeral plan, meeting with a funeral director to make arrangements for the funeral services, confirming cemetery arrangements and choosing the necessary casket or urn, grave marker and funeral stationery.
Reference: Fed Week (Feb. 22, 2022) “Expressing Your Will with a Will”
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