August is “National Make-A-Will Month,” and if you have already prepared your will, congratulations—too few Americans have taken this key first step in the estate planning process. In fact, only 33% of Americans have created their will, according to Caring.com’s 2022 Wills and Estate Planning Study.
Yet, while having a will is important—and all adults over age 18 should have this document in place—for all but a few people, creating a will is just one small part of an effective estate plan that works to keep your loved ones out of court and out of conflict. With this in mind, here we look at exactly what having a will in place will—and will not—do for you and your loved ones in terms of estate planning.
If you have yet to create your will, or you haven’t reviewed your existing will recently, contact a Personal Family Lawyer® to get this vital first step in your estate planning handled right away.
What A Will Does
A will is a legal document that outlines your final wishes in regards to how your assets are distributed to your surviving family members. Here are some of the things having a will in place allows you to do:
However, as we’ll discuss more below, a will only allows you to provide for the distribution of certain types of assets—namely, a will only covers assets owned solely in your name. Other types of assets, such as those with a beneficiary designation and assets co-owned by you with others, are not affected by your will.
Fortunately, whether you’ve named guardians for your kids in your will or have yet to take any action at all, you’ve come to the right place. As a Personal Family Lawyer® firm, we have been trained by the author of the best-selling book, Wear Clean Underwear!: A Fast, Fun, Friendly, and Essential Guide to Legal Planning for Busy Parents, on legal planning for the unique needs of families with minor children.
As a result of this training, we offer a comprehensive system known as the Kids Protection Plan®, which is included with every estate plan we prepare for families with young children. While you should meet with us to put the full Kids Protection Plan® in place as soon as possible, protecting your children is such a critical and urgent issue, we’ve created a totally free website, where you can get your plan started right now.
⇒ If you’ve yet to take any action at all, visit this 100% FREE website, where you can take the first steps to create legal documents naming long-term guardians for your children to ensure that should anything happen to you prior to creating your estate plan, your kids would be cared for by the people you would want in the way you would want. Get started here now: https://kidsprotectionplan.com/
After you’ve completed those initial actions, schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session with us, so we can put the full Kids Protection Plan® in place, and determine if there is anything else your family might need to ensure the well-being and care of your children.
⇒ If you have already named long-term guardians in your will—either on your own or with a lawyer—we can review your existing legal documents to see whether you have made any of the six common mistakes that could leave your kids at risk. From there, we will revise your plan to ensure your children are fully protected.
A Small—But Important—First Step
As you can see here, having a will in place only gives you a limited amount of power over the distribution of certain assets, but that doesn’t mean you should go without one. Without a will, you would have no say in who inherits your assets when you die, and everything you own could even go to the state.
But worse than that, your surviving loved ones will be the ones who have to clean up the mess you’ve left behind. And they will have to handle all of this while grieving your death. Instead, you should see your will as an important first step in the estate planning process—one that works best when integrated with a variety of other legal vehicles, such as trusts, powers of attorney, and advance healthcare directives.
Next week, in part two, we’ll detail all of the things that your will does not do, and then we’ll outline the different estate planning tools that you should have in place to make up for these potential blind spots in your estate plan. Until then, if you need to get your estate planning started or you would like us to review your existing estate plan (even one created by another lawyer) to see if you are missing anything, contact a Personal Family Lawyer®.