Sunday, June 23, 2013

Simple Wills

Back again with more thoughts on Estate Planning after completing your divorce.  First, a quick thank you to Dennis who had a great question in response to my Changes blog last week.  Basically, how can unmarried couples, and I would presume long term and committed relationships, that simply don’t care about marriage, deal with these same issues, separately, but together.  Check my response to Dennis in the Changes blog.  That said, this week we deal with one tool good for everyone, a Will.

Let’s get very clear up front.  Nothing says you must have a Will or Estate Plan.  If you have virtually nothing, or nobody, who cares if you have a Will.  However, if you have people and stuff, you should consider having a Will.  Every state has its own rules and process for people who die without a Will.  If you die without a Will, you are deemed to have passed “intestate” or, without a Will.  The law provides for the accumulation of your assets and debts, a satisfaction of your debts and the passing of your remaining stuff to your blood relatives.  This is done through the court Probate process.  If you are OK with that, then you don’t need a Will.  Understand that the law also provides for court approved fees for attorneys, so everyone gets a piece.  Having a Will does not always by pass Probate, and there are certain instances where your heirs should elect to Probate your estate, but a Will gives them the first tool necessary to follow your direction, pass along benefits and dispose of your stuff as you wanted.

What is a Will?  We were taught in law school that a Will is essentially your voice from beyond the grave, telling your survivors and heirs what you want to do with your stuff and to help conserve your stuff for your family, and hopefully not the government.  A Will is generally defined as a document by which a person directs the disposition of his or her property, which takes effect after that persons death, and for the legal folk in the crowd, a Will is also ambulatory and revocable during your lifetime, meaning, you can change your Will as long as you live.  What else does a Will do?  It can create the complete list of your property and a complete list of your family, heirs or beneficiaries.

In most instances, the average person will need only a Simple Will.  Of the various types of Wills, I will spend the rest of this blog, discussing only Simple Wills.  A Simple Will describes who you are, with enough information to identify you, and that this is your Will.  It will also identify your beneficiaries, whether that is family, friends, charities or other.  The Will generally appoints one or more Executors, being the people that you trust to be legally responsible for making sure your directions are followed.  The Executor is also frequently called your Personal Representative and there are frequently multiple or sequential representatives identified.  And finally, your wishes.

Pretty simple, right?  In the future, we will discuss other Wills, such as Joint Wills, Mutual Wills, Holographic Wills (no not a 3-D Will, how cool would that be) and Nuncupative Wills.  Don’t you just love the cliffhanger!

In the blogs that follow, I will begin to address in greater detail each of the major parts of a Simple Will, which also applies to most every other type of Will. However, if you have any questions, feel free to respond below, or if you are interested in learning more about an Estate Plan, Wills, Trusts, Advanced Healthcare Directives, or Divorce, Custody, Visitation, Child Support, Spousal Support, Property Division, Modifications, Remarriage, or Pre-Nuptial Agreements, please contact me at, or at for Fred Begun.