Last Will and Testament

A Good Plan Can Resolve Many Worries.

Did you know that if you don’t make your own Will, the State has made one for you? This government-drafted estate plan (known as the laws of intestate distribution) rarely reflects the intent of the decedent. So why don’t people do their planning earlier?

Many people intend to do their Wills “someday” but that “someday” never comes. Some people avoid estate planning because of the “ostrich syndrome” as though avoiding it is better than doing it. The reality is that an average estate plan will take 3-4 hours of your time, including the initial consultation, review of drafts, and final documents execution. Not doing it can cost your dear ones much more time and money.

Sometimes people avoid estate planning because they feel powerless to resolve serious concerns. But good estate planning can and does solve these and other common family issues: “I don’t trust my daughter-in-law,” “My spouse and I have children from prior marriages,” and–more often, recently–“My child or grandchild has issues with substance use.”

When your child is married to someone who you think would misuse your child’s inheritance (or run off with it), you can protect your child by leaving their inheritance in a trust. A trust can also be used to encourage or discourage behavior.

The assets you leave a child in trust would be doled out by an independent third party (the trustee) only to (or on behalf of) your child. For example, a trustee could pay a medical bill. Without unfettered access to the funds, your child is less likely to expend those funds on an undesirable person. Also, the trust funds should not be eligible for division in the event of a divorce.

A well-drafted trust can also serve as an incentive to work. A so-called “incentive trust” prohibits the trustee from making a distribution until and unless the beneficiary can prove the beneficiary is working by producing a W-2 or a Form 1099.

Blended families and family-owned businesses can present challenges for parents who want to keep things fair, when fair doesn’t mean equal. Good planning can help preserve harmony in the family. A professional skilled in navigating the nuances of family dynamics can guide your family to a satisfactory plan.

Substance abuse is a reality that effects more of us every year. Leaving an addict unrestricted access to assets can be a death sentence rather than a blessing. While no one can make an addict get sober, a properly drafted trust can restrict access to the trust funds to those times when the beneficiary is sober.

One of the greatest barriers to young couples making their Wills is deciding who should be the guardian of any young children. Facing that prospect can be unnerving, but an experienced attorney can help you sort out your concerns. For example, some couples decide that the children should be raised by a certain couple, but another individual should be in charge of managing any assets for those children.

Don’t let the unknown (or unpleasant known!) keep you from planning your estate. There are established and creative solutions that empower you to take control of your estate, plan for your future and protect your family.