Estate Planning involves a combination of various legal instruments, such as Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, and Living Wills, as well as Lifetime Transfers, Gifts, and Beneficiary Designations.
Benefits of a Will
A well-crafted, thought-out Will can be one of the soundest investments you can make, not only for your assets, but for your family and the preservation of your legacy. Anyone that has experienced the loss of a loved one, like a parent or grandparent, knows the confusion that can set in once the reality of moving forward with life materializes. When you pass, those closest to you will be left with a range of questions, many of which can be answered by your Will. Easing the confusion about the handling of your estate allows your loved ones to focus on what matters. It will help ease the mourning process and let them concentrate on the happy moments you shared. Here are ten benefits of having a Will:
Protecting Your Family and Your Legacy
In my opinion, this is the MOST important reason for a Will. You’ve spend your entire life being there for your loved ones - supporting your spouse, protecting your children, building a family. A Will, and an Estate Plan in general, allows you to be there for them even when you are gone, and often at the time when they need you the most. A Will can provide stability to your family in a time of confusion by having many of the issues with your estate already addressed. A Will can provide comfort for a family that is grieving as they feel you watching out for them one last time. A Will can preserve your legacy as a provider and a caretaker for your family.
Your Peace of Mind
If you are like many Americans, your life is full of stress. Worries about your mortgage, bills, your job, medical issues, your children’s wellbeing – about the health and safety of your family – are just a reality of life. The thought of not being around only compounds these issues. With an Estate Plan, you can give yourself one less thing to worry about. Knowing those that you love will be taken care of after you are gone can help you sleep easier and enjoy the time you have with them.
Determining Your Heirs
If you pass without a Will, your assets are distributed according to the rules of Intestacy. While sometimes these results are acceptable, often times they are not. A Will allows you to specify exactly who receives what from your estate. The rules of Intestacy can often leave out loved ones you’d like to receive from your estate, including friends and siblings. Intestacy may also distribute your assets in proportions that are different than what you prefer. By specifying what each of your heirs receives, not only can you add additional sentiment to the assets (often knowing that mom or dad wanted you to have something makes it more valuable to you), you can avoid family arguments and disputes that can sometimes arise. You can also make gifts to support charities or causes that are close to your heart.
It is HIGHLY recommended for parents with minor children to have Wills. It’s estimated that approximately half of Americans with children do not have a Will, meaning very large and very important issues regarding the care of their children have been left unanswered if the worst should happen. Through a Will you can name a guardian for your children. Wills can also be used to establish trusts for the benefit of your children, such as to provide until they reach the age of 18 or to help pay for college. Additionally, if you have a child with special needs, a trust can be used to provide for their care and costly medical bills.
By naming an executor and specifying his/her powers and duties, you can ease the probate process, save your estate money, and ultimately pass more on to your heirs sooner.
Address Estate Plan
A Will often serves as the foundation of an overall Estate Plan. While making a Will, it is usually worthwhile to take the time to address the rest of your Estate Plan. Powers of Attorney and Living Wills round out an Estate Plan for many individuals and obtaining these documents at the same time as your Will is an effective and efficient way to complete your Estate Plan.
Each year non-traditional families are becoming more and more common in the United States. The law tends to be slow to change and the rules of intestacy very likely will not adequately address a non-traditional family. Unmarried couples, with or without kids, and couples in second or third marriages, especially when children are involved from previous marriages, face unique issues that should not be left to intestacy statutes. For unmarried couples, assets not jointly in both names will likely not pass to your significant other without a Will or some other type of Estate Plan. For couples with children from previous marriages, insuring that assets are properly distributed amongst all that are involved often require a Will and Trust combination.
Having a Will on its own will not reduce taxes owed by your estate or by your heirs. But careful planning and an overall Estate Plan can help to reduce the tax burden. A range of tax saving methods exist for Federal Estate and Gift Taxes, and Pennsylvania Inheritance tax can potentially be reduced through properly distributing assets.
More and more of our lives are now online. Facebook, Twitter, and various other forms of social media have become major parts of our lives, and in fact our identities. It is become more common for Estate Plans to include the handling of your digital presence, including what happens to your Facebook page, blog or Twitter account. Your Will can specify how these aspects of your life are addressed after you pass.
If you own a small, family business, it is vitally important that you have an Estate Plan capable of addressing your unique needs. Whether it is the distribution of ownership interests in the business to the next generation, or a wholesale distribution of assets, a Will can help make sure your life’s work is taken care of after you pass.
Michael J. Girardi
Estate Administration is a process that involves a wide range of duties on behalf of the Executor or Administrator. These responsibilities include collecting, valuing, and protecting the estate’s assets, making payments to creditors and receiving collections from debtors, the payment of various taxes, and the distribution of the assets to the heirs and beneficiaries of the estate.
To learn more about Estate Administration, check out the resources below, or contact us to schedule a free consultation.