A will is a document that provides you the opportunity to design your legacy – it is the centerpiece of any comprehensive estate plan. When drafting a will, there are several important factors to consider so your heirs have the maximum amount of protection. Here are just three considerations when drafting a will.
- Name a Trusted Executor
The executor of a will is the individual responsible for overseeing the process of inventorying the estate, settling accounts with creditors, filing tax returns and distributing assets after you pass away. This position is essential to successfully administer an estate. This person must be able to maintain a certain amount of objectivity. Keep in mind that someone especially close to you, such as a spouse or sensitive child, may be too overwhelmed by grief to handle the demands of the job. Trusted friends, steady family members, longtime professional associates and attorneys are popular choices. Anyone with a felony conviction is prohibited from serving as an executor in New York State.
- Designate a Guardian for Minor Children
There is a pervasive myth that estate planning is only for the elderly, but every adult should have a fully and properly executed will. It is even more so for adults with young families. Parents should name a guardian in the event they suddenly pass away. As you draft a will, consider who you want to raise your children should the need arise. Discuss the matter thoroughly with that person before naming him/her or them, as guardian(s) for your children in your will.
- Avoiding Probate, May Not Make Sense
Probate is the legal process that a will must pass through for the estate to be settled. It is no secret that probate can be long, but there are ways to streamline the distribution of certain assets without the probate courts. Establishing a revocable living trust for example, permits you to transfer ownership of specific property held in the trust to your heirs without the need for probate, but it will not afford asset protection. A revocable trust (also known as a testamentary substitute) may not be the best option. Seek out an experienced estate and/or elder law planning attorney who will help you devise the estate plan that makes sense for you and your family. Avoiding probate can cause problems as there is no judicial oversight as vulnerable parents may make irrational decisions toward the end of their lives creating an uneven distribution among children that can sting long after they pass away.
A will makes your wishes known, so think carefully about the dispositive provisions in it. The estate planning attorneys at Lacy Katzen are here to help.