Death is not something that most people want to think about, and yet we all know it is inevitable. Unfortunately, nothing seems to tear families apart more than battles over money. Having a simple will and/or setting up a trust does not have to be a very involved process for most people and can be done rather inexpensively these days. The main things to cover with an attorney are as follows:
1) Who will be your personal representative or executor of the will?
2) Who will be the trustee that manages the assets in a trust?
3) Who will be the back-up executor and/or trustee?
4) What specific bequests (gifts) would you like to make to certain individuals?
4) What happens to your entire estate after all debts are paid?
5) Are there any charities you wish to remember in your will?
Many of my clients cannot focus on estate planning issues while dealing with the divorce, but I definitely encourage them to do this as soon as possible, especially if they have minor children, who will need to have assets managed by a trusted individual. When people re-marry, it is important that they realize that a prenuptial agreement does not act as a substitute for a will, and they should get legal advice as to how local state laws probate an estate absent a will. Furthermore, as blended-family situations continue to increase in our society, it is critical that parents take appropriate measures to protect their children’s interests and well-being. Without a will in place, a step-parent may be able to assert control over a substantial amount of the assets and the step-child may be left in a very precarious financial situation.
Relationships will continue to evolve over our lifetime, however, we should not use this as an excuse to postpone estate planning, rather we should view estate planning as something that needs to be revisited periodically. Ultimately, our heirs are the legacies we leave behind after we leave this Earth, and providing them with peace of mind that they are not inheriting a financial and/or legal nightmare should be our parting gift to those we love.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.