How to Start a Will
Well-crafted, up-to-date estate planning documents ensure your wishes will be carried out. They also can help ease the burdens on your family during a difficult time.
Do you have questions about wills? Maybe you are unsure what a will does? A will is a document executed in front of two witnesses and a notary that details how you want your property to be distributed after something happens to you. For those with minor children, the will is also the vehicle for naming a guardian. It also names someone or some entity you trust to serve as executor of your estate. This person or company is responsible for administering your estate through the probate process and distributing your property.
Every estate planning attorney in Kansas City will recommend you have a will. This is because if you die without a will (that is, “intestate”), your state has a plan for your estate. This includes how a person will be appointed to manage and administer your estate as well as who is entitled to portions of your estate. In some instances, individuals who have had no contact with a decedent for decades receive a substantial sum due to the decedent passing with no will. For those with minor children, a person named by the court will nominate a guardian. The person named as guardian or the persons receiving from your estate may not be who you wanted.
The living trust
Many people consider creating a revocable living trust to avoid the limitations of a will. A trust allows an estate to avoid the time-consuming, expensive and public probate process. A living trust is a legal entity to which you, as the grantor, transfer title to your property. One nice benefit of the living trust is that during your life, you control all the assets in the trust and can modify, amend what is in in the trust or even revoke it. It is a flexible aspect to your estate plan. Upon your passing, the revocable trust generally becomes irrevocable, meaning the rules you set for distribution are locked down. The person or entity you name as successor trustee will step into your shoes to manage the trust and fulfill the rules you set forth in your trust.
Another positive aspect of the revocable trust is that assets held in a living trust avoid probate — with very limited exceptions. It also can provide for you when you are incapacitated.
Even with a living trust, you will still need a will. However, the role of the will changes. It serves to supplement the revocable trust and accomplish your goals and directions. For those with minor children, the will is still needed for naming a guardian.
Other important documents
A few documents will become invaluable to your family should you become incapacitated. Two are forms of power of attorney.
The durable power of attorney for property allows you to appoint someone to act on your behalf on financial matters should you become incapacitated. As we’ve discussed previously, this can be either a springing or non-springing power. Also, a health care power of attorney is advisable to cover medical decisions.
Don’t go it alone
Last but not least, review the beneficiary designation forms on any insurance policies, as well as your 401(k) plans and IRAs, to be certain that the money will go where you want it to go.
Estate Planning Kansas City is an estate planning attorney in Overland Park providing wills and trusts to those in Leawood, Lenexa, Olathe, Prairie Village, Roeland Park and Shawnee and now serving Parkville, Riverside and North Kansas City from our Briarcliff Office. Each situation is different and this article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be placed solely upon the base of this post. Overland Park Office: (913) 766-7188. North Kansas City (816) 381-9300.