The question of who will inherit your money or property when you die is an important one. Too often, individuals who seek to plan their estate believe that merely writing a will is enough to ensure their end of life wishes are followed. Although creating your will is a significant first step in the estate planning process, it is important to realize that a number of other legal instruments may override the provisions of your will.
How your property or financial instruments are titled will take precedence over your will. For example, if you own your home jointly with a right of survivorship going to a spouse or other individual the property will transfer to your co-owner no matter what your will states. Additionally, named life insurance beneficiaries will always receive the insurance money regardless of the provisions contained in your will. A bank account, savings bonds, and any retirement accounts will also transfer to your named beneficiary after you die.
Only those assets you own individually that do not have a named beneficiary may pass by will. Still, it is important to tell your estate planning attorney about all of your assets and discuss with him or her exactly who you would like to receive those assets after your death. Your lawyer can help you decide if named beneficiaries are the best way to plan, and can help you change them if you wish.
Through a will, the parents of minor children have the ability to specify who will have guardianship of their children if they both die. Also, your personal representative (also known as an executor) is named in your will. A personal representative is a trusted individual who is tasked with carrying out your wishes throughout the sometimes lengthy probate process. Through probate, a court will oversee the payment of your debts and the transfer of your assets according to the provisions included in your will. Many people choose to avoid probate by transferring assets into a revocable living trust. A knowledgeable wills and trusts attorney can discuss the probate process with you in more detail.
Protecting the financial health of your family members and other loved ones after you die is important. In order to avoid mistakes and ensure your wishes are followed, you are advised to consult with an experienced estate planning lawyer on a regular basis.
The attorneys at Krause Donovan Estate Law Partners, LLC, assist clients with probate matters, trust administration, health care documents, powers of attorney, wills, and many other estate planning tools. You can submit our online form to request a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.