While many people assume that estate planning is only for the wealthy, the truth is that almost everyone should have an estate plan. Estate planning consists of more than simply transferring assets at death. It also encompasses planning for incapacity, healthcare decisions and guardianship of minor children. As such, even young parents with limited assets should consider creating an estate plan.
At a minimum, every estate plan should have a Durable Power of Attorney, an Advanced Healthcare Directive and a Will which will document your answers to the following fundamental questions:
Whom do you want handling your financial affairs if you’re ever incapacitated?
Whom do you want making medical decisions for you if you become unable to make them for yourself?
Whom do you want to inherit your assets at your death?
Whom do you want to take care of your minor children in the event you are deceased?
In order for estate planning documents to be enforceable, it is important that certain formalities are met. An experienced attorney can advise you regarding your plan and the formalities necessary to enforce your plan. It is also important that any estate plan be reviewed regularly to ensure that the plan contemplates the current circumstances of the parties. If you would like to discuss creating or amending an estate plan, call us for a free consultation.
What is a last will and testament?
A will is a document which provides the manner in which a person’s property will be distributed when he dies. A person who dies after writing a will is said to have died testate. If someone dies without writing a will, they have died intestate.
Do I need a last will and testament?
If you have assets or property which you would like to assure are given to certain people, then you should consider writing a will.
If you die without a will, you assets and property will be divided according to the laws of intestacy. Before deciding to forego a will, it is advisable to speak with an attorney.
How often should I review my will?
A properly written and executed will is “good” until it is changed or revoked. If there is a change in your estate or your family makeup, you should review your existing will and determine whether any changes are necessary. It is also a good idea to regularly review your will to ensure that it disposes of your assets in the manner which you desire.
Where should I keep my last will and testament?
You should keep your will in a safe place, such as a safety deposit box at the bank. It is important the you let your family know where the will is so they can find it when you die.
What happens if I die without a will?
If someone dies without writing a will, they have died intestate. Each state has specific laws governing the distribution of property when a person dies intestate, and most laws are generally the same. The laws of Alabama are shown below, but you should remember that these laws may not apply if the deceased was not a resident of Alabama, or if the property is located in another state. In this list, “issue” means all of the people who have descended from the decedent. This included children (both natural and adopted), grandchildren (both natural and adopted), great grandchildren, and so on.
Property going to the surviving spouse:
Entire estate if no surviving issue or parents of decedent;
First $100,000, plus 1/2 of balance of estate if there is no surviving issue but if there is surviving parent(s);
First $50,000, plus 1/2 of balance of estate if there are surviving issue all of whom are also issue of surviving spouse; or 1/2 of estate if there are surviving issue who are not issue who are not issue of the surviving spouse.
Property not going to the surviving spouse:
If there is no surviving spouse, or there is property left after the spouse receives his or her share, it passes under the following priority:
All of the property passes to the issue, unless there are none. If none, all passes to the parents. If neither parent is living, the estate passes to siblings, and so on under this prior priority:
brothers and sisters
aunts and uncles