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You Still Don't Have a Will?

James Doan - Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Don’t Play Games...A simple will might be all you need.

By James Patrick Doan, ESQ

 If you do no other estate planning, you should at an absolute minimum, have a will. Without a will, state law will determine who gets your property and a judge may decide who will raise your children.

 Having a simple will in place provides confidence that your property is left to the people and organizations you choose. It names the guardian you prefer to care for your minor children if you can’t. It names someone you trust to manage the property you leave to minor children, and names the person you choose as an executor to ensure that the terms of your will are properly carried out. 

 As part of your estate plan, you can include a Health Care Directive to spare your loved ones from having to make life altering decisions. This ensures that the loved one you select has legal permission to make important medical decisions for you should that become necessary. A Living Will, assures that your wishes are met with respect to prolonging your life by artificial means. 

 A Living Trust will keep you out of probate. Staying out of probate saves your loved ones time and money! By creating a trust while you are alive, you can name your successor as trustee of your estate. Upon your death, your chosen successor simply transfers ownership to the beneficiaries you named in the trust. Once all of the property has been transferred to the beneficiaries, the living trust ceases to exist.

 A trust can be either Revocable, meaning that you can change your mind, or Irrevocable, which means, what’s done is done. It’s easiest to understand an Irrevocable Trust. Simply stated, you can’t retrieve the property from an Irrevocable Trust. Essentially, that property now belongs to the trust, not to you!

 You should periodically review your estate plan, including your will and any trusts, to ensure that your inheritance planning is consistent with your needs and goals. Additionally, review your estate plan upon:

ü  Marriage, separation or divorce

ü  Birth or adoption of a child

ü  Death of an heir

ü  Move to another state

ü  Significant changes in your health

ü  Significant changes in your financial condition

 Be smart. However large or small, don’t leave your estate to a game of chance!

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