Importance of Will in Estate Planning
If you’re wondering why a will is important in estate planning in South Portland, ME, our knowledgeable Maine estate planning lawyers at Jackson & MacNichol are here to help you answer this question. Having a last will and testament is an important part of every estate plan, making it a great first step in getting your plan in place.
A will is an estate planning document that contains specific instructions on how your estate assets should be distributed when you die. A will is important to have, as it allows you to communicate your wishes precisely and clearly. It provides peace of mind for yourself and your loved ones by stating exactly how you would like your estate assets managed in the event of your death.
Wills can be used for a lot more than the distribution of assets to heirs. This article will give you an overview of some of the valuable things a will can do. Here are some of the many reasons you should have a will in place, no matter what your age:
- Appoint an Executor of Your Estate
- Facilitate the Probate Process
- Disinherit Heirs
- Name a Guardian For Your Minor Children
- Minimize Estate Tax
- Keep Your Will Updated
- Decide How Your Estate Assets Will Be Distributed
- Make Donations and Gifts
- Avoid Legal Challenges
Appoint an Executor of Your Estate
You can use your will to name an executor or a personal representative to take on the task of settling your estate when you die. This is a position of great trust. This person is responsible for paying your debts, handling your finances and bank accounts, and distributing your estate to your heirs. Without a will, the probate court will appoint someone to do this job.
Facilitate the Probate Process
Probate is a court-supervised process for distributing and settling an estate, whether one has a will or not. It usually involves proving to the probate court that a deceased person’s will is valid, identifying and cataloging the deceased individual’s property, appraising it, assigning and paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining property.
The probate process varies by state. Probate is not always lengthy or expensive. Many states offer a quicker, less expensive option if the assets subject to probate are below a certain value. This depends mostly on the value and size of your estate. That said, a well-drafted will can minimize the delay.
A will allows you to specifically include beneficiaries who intestacy laws would otherwise leave out. It also allows you to disinherit heirs who would otherwise be included. You can use a will to help ensure that some people don’t receive anything. Make sure your instructions are clearly drafted to avoid potential family disputes.
Name a Guardian For Your Minor Children
If you’re a parent, you can use your last will and testament to appoint a guardian for your minor children. A guardian will be responsible for all your children’s daily needs, including food, health care, housing, clothing, and education.
If one parent dies, the surviving parent will usually get sole legal custody. But if both parents pass, this is one of the most important reasons to have a will. And if you don’t nominate a guardian in your will, a court will have to choose one for you. This could mean that someone you would not have chosen will be raising your kids.
Minimize Estate Tax
Wills can be great tools for tax planning to avoid federal or state estate tax. You can also reduce the burden of inheritance tax on your children or grandchildren quite significantly with the help of our competent South Portland estate planning attorney on your side. Essential to estate planning is transferring assets to beneficiaries creating the smallest possible tax burden for them.
Keep Your Will Updated
Estate planning is not a one-time process. You must constantly review your current will to ensure it fits your present family situation. As years go by, your life circumstances change. For this reason, there may come a time when you’ll want to change or update your last will and testament.
There are many reasons you might need to update your will. Examples include the birth of a new child, the death of a relative, and divorce. This helps ensure your family stays protected and your final wishes are respected. Your most recent valid will is normally the most authoritative.
Decide How Your Estate Assets Will Be Distributed
The most common reason to make a will is to decide who will get your property when you die. The distribution of your estate assets depends upon how you own the property, what type of property it is, and any beneficiary designations.
If you die intestate (without a will), your estate will be distributed according to your state’s law of intestate succession. There is no assurance that these state laws will align with your final wishes and intentions. One of the easiest ways to avoid this problem is by writing a will.
Make Donations and Gifts
In addition to distributing your estate to your family and loved ones, a will also allow you to make donations and gifts to charitable causes. Such gifts are wholly revocable while you are alive and may save significant taxes for your estate. When drafting your will, it is important to check the updated gift tax exclusions.
Avoid Legal Challenges
A well-drafted will reduces the risk of legal challenges. It is a legally binding estate planning document that expresses your final wishes and instructions when you are no longer around to speak for yourself. If you have complicated family dynamics, there’s a good reason to have a will.
When you die without a will, your loved one will have to guess what your final wishes are. Aside from wasting time and money, failure to make a comprehensive estate plan can create chaos for your family, often leading to major rifts and damaged relationships.
Call Our Experienced South Portland Estate Planning Lawyer Now!
A will is an essential legal document that serves as the foundation of your estate plan. Creating a will gives you peace of mind and helps you relax, knowing that you have a plan in place. You can look after your loved ones and give them an easy map to follow after your death.
Creating an estate plan puts you in control over your legacy and affairs, rather than leaving that up to the courts or family disputes. Preparing for the future and providing for your loved ones requires careful planning and attention to detail. Our seasoned South Portland estate planning attorneys at Jackson & MacNichol are ready to help you create a will that protects the interests of both you and your family.
Our estate planning law firm has extensive experience in drafting wills, setting up trusts, creating powers of attorney, and providing various estate planning services. We are passionate about providing legal advice and helping Maine families plan for the future. Contact our legal team now and schedule a free estate planning and asset protection strategy session with our qualified lawyers.