With all the information available these days via “self-help” reference material, computer software programs and the Internet, is it necessary to find a lawyer before making out a will? However, it is always wise to seek the advice of an expert. Just having a fill-in-the-blank document is not enough. You need the advice of an estate planning lawyer in order to know how to fill it out correctly.
What is a Will?
A Last Will and Testament is a document that appoints an “executor” to manage your estate when you die. It also outlines how your property is to be distributed to your beneficiaries. Without a will, the way in which your property will be distributed is left up to the state and the intestate succession laws of that state. If you have minor children under the age of eighteen (18), your will also names the legal guardian who you desire to raise your children until they become adults. Without a will, the courts will decide which of your relatives get to raise your children. Regardless of how much money you have, this is probably the most important reason to have a will.
Why is an Attorney Helpful?
In most states, a basic will does not have to be notarized or filed with any government agency. In situations where beneficiaries and property distribution are relatively straightforward and clearly defined, all that is required of a will — after it is written up and signed by the creator and at least two witnesses — is its storage in a place that is accessible to the executor.
However, if there are concerns regarding the validity of a will, enlisting the help of an experienced probate lawyer would be advisable. Probate lawyers are well-versed in areas of estate planning and wills and trusts. They thoroughly understand the rights and legalities surrounding the creation of a will. A will that is drafted and witnessed and stored by a lawyer is much harder to contest.
What happens if one of your three (3) adult children dies before you? Do you want that one-third (1/3) of your estate to pass onto her children, or do you want your two surviving children to split everything 50/50? What if you do not care much for the man your daughter married? Can you do something to ensure that your grandchildren get your money and not your son-in-law? A trust may be necessary to plan for this. These are some of the many issues an experienced estate planning lawyer will bring to your attention to think about. You do not get this kind of advice from a will “kit” at the drug store or on-line.
If there is any doubt at all in the making of a will, a lawyer can help smooth out the process and detect any mistakes or areas that may be open to question. It is better to leave nothing to chance within this extremely important endeavor.
This blog is written and published by Godbey & Associates.