At the foundation of any well thought out estate plan is usually a Last Will and Testament. Although you will likely incorporate additional estate planning tools and strategies into your comprehensive estate plan, it all begins with your Will. In fact, your Will can play as big, or as little, a role in your estate plan as you wish. Whether your Will is your entire estate plan at the moment or just the cornerstone of a much bigger plan, care should be taken when creating your Last Will and Testament given its importance to you and your loved ones. To help ensure that your Will accurately reflects your wishes, desires, and intentions, a St. Louis estate planning attorney offers the following tips for creating your Will.
- Do not try the “DIY” route. This is the single biggest mistake people make when deciding to create a Last Will and Testament. With the advent of the internet, it is now possible to find a fill-in-the-blank form for just about any legal need, including your Will. It may be tempting to download one of these form and go the DIY route because it appears to save you both time and money; however, the vast majority of the time using a DIY Will form results in your loved ones spending considerably more time and money during the probate of your estate because of the document your signed is full of errors, mistakes, and/or vague provisions.
- Allow yourself plenty of time to make decisions. Another mistake people often make is deciding to execute a Will because something like an extended trip overseas triggers the idea. Creating your Will when you are rushed for time, or doing so as a spur of the moment thought, is likely to lead to mistakes or poor decisions that you will regret later.
- Make a list of your assets before you get started. Like many people, you may think you know all your assets off the top of your head; however, you may find that when you take some time to make a list there are assets you did not remember off the top of your head.
- Do not take the position of Executor lightly. People often appoint the most convenient person as the Executor of their estate, such as a spouse, adult child, or close friend, without giving any thought to whether that individual is qualified and/or is the best person for the job. Your Executor may be responsible for an efficient and economical probate process, or for a costly and convoluted probate process. Choose wisely.
- Be honest with yourself when it comes to beneficiaries. No one wants to admit that a grown child has an addiction problem or that a loved one is likely to squander an inheritance; however, failing to do so could result in the loss of assets. By evaluating your loved ones honestly, you can make provisions in your estate plan that protect your assets while still providing for your loved one. For example, if you are concerned that a loved one cannot handle a lump sum inheritance, staggered disbursements using a trust might be the answer.
- Think about who to appoint as Guardian, even if you do not have children yet. Did you know that your Last Will and Testament is the only opportunity you will have to nominate a Guardian for your minor children in the event one is ever needed? For a parent, this may actually be the most important function of a Will. If you are young, and have yet to become a parent, go ahead and nominate a Guardian anyway so that you are covered from the moment you do become a parent.
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding creating a Last Will and Testament, contact the experienced St. Louis estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.