The process of arranging and disposing an estate during a person's life can be complicated and wanting to control how your property is being disposed after your death involves important decisions. At a minimum, everyone should have three (3) important documents in their estate plan: (1) Living Will; (2) Power of Attorney; and (3) Last Will and Testament.
A will is a legal document that communicates how a testator's estate is to be handled after death. A testator is the person who writes the will. The estate includes assets such as business interests, financial accounts, real estate and other physical possessions. The estate also includes the testator's debts and other obligations. A will is also used to leave instructions for the care of dependents by establishing a legal guardianship over children who are still minors. Here are some benefits of having a will:
1. You Decide Who Cares for Your Children - If you don't select a guardian for your children, this important decision could be left up to the State to decide.
2. Avoids Chaos for Your Loved Ones After Death
3. You Control What Happens with Your Possessions When You Die - When a person dies in intestacy (without a legal will), determining the distribution of the deceased's assets then becomes the responsibility of a probate court. Having a valid will can help your remaining loved ones avoid the probate process.
Simple wills are most often used when all that is needed is direction on how to distribute simple assets from the estate to the beneficiaries. As long as the nature of the assets is relatively uncomplicated, a simple will is more than likely sufficient to do the job.
A testamentary trust will is different because it includes provisions that place a portion of your estate into a trust. Based on the terms of the testamentary trust, your assets are distributed to your beneficiaries, through the trustee who controls those assets. The most common example is a spendthrift trust, often used in cases where a beneficiary is considered to be financially irresponsible. A spendthrift trust allows the trustee to distribute the trust assets gradually and under certain conditions.
Joint wills, sometimes called "reciprocal wills" or "mirror wills," are often used by spouses who intend to leave their property to one another. The surviving testator will inherit everything in the deceased spouse's estate. Then, when the surviving testator passes away, the remaining estate will be distributed to the couple's chosen beneficiaries, pursuant to the terms of the will. A joint will cannot be revoked once the first testator dies.
A living will, sometimes called an "Advance Healthcare Directive," is entirely different from that of the three other types discussed here. The purpose of a living will is to provide detailed instructions about the type of medical treatment or life-saving measures you want to be used if you become unable to communicate those wishes for yourself. For example, your living will may specify that, in the event you become terminally ill and unconscious, you do not wish to be put on a feeding tube, ventilator, or any other form of life support, even if it could result in death.
Call McAdory Legal Group, LLC at 205-201-1176 to schedule an appointment with a skilled estate planning attorney. Ask about our Estate Planning Bundle.