With the number of people reaching retirement age increasing at a rapid number daily, the internet is literally littered with an abundance of people wanting to make their last will and testament free. Who can blame them? Putting together your own estate plan isn’t impossible. However, as an estate planning attorney, I’ve seen a fleet of common mistakes that can impact, if not upend, an estate plan.
One of the greatest problems people encounter with estate planning issues is simply not understanding how their assets will pass upon their death. Quite literally, they don’t have the foggiest idea what would happen to all their stuff when they’re gone, whether or not they put their own desires in writing. It’s not that they’ve done anything wrong. In fact, they’ve not done anything at all. That’s just the rub. They’ve not even begun to investigate how things will play out if they don’t intervene with the status quo and superimpose some of their own wishes.
Last Will And Testament Free… But Powerful Enough?
Fortunately, people do have the opportunity to influence the disposition of their belongings. However, it takes affirmative action to ensure that your preferences trump those of the state legislature. As if that’s not enough, you need to be aware that your preferences are subject to some limitations due to public policy issues. This is where wanting to do your last will and testament free can create conflict with inescapable legal impositions.
Therefore, you have to not only know what the default plan is, but also know the boundaries of your ability to alter it. There are some more aggressive estate planning maneuvers you can engage in to force your desires into existence if they are at odds with legislative dictates, but this requires advanced planning. And this is typically beyond the scope of someone looking to do their last will and testament free, unless they have a decent amount of legal training in the area.
Last Will And Testament Free Advice
So, let’s dive in with the beginning premise that most people simply do not know what will happen to their “stuff” when they die. One reason for the confusion is not knowing exactly what happens if you die without a will or trust. In this case, the rules of intestacy will prevail. Once you know what the state-wide, generic default plan is, doing your last will and testament free isn’t terribly difficult if you want to do something real basic that will not conflict with public policy.
But there’s another common problem people who do their last will and testament free commonly run into. This is when you don’t fully appreciate the impact of joint ownership (even, or especially, where a will or trust exists). See, you can do your last will and testament free, and believe you’ve effected your desires and done so at no expense. But the real price is often paid by the survivors of people who do not realize the incompatibility of some contracts with will provisions. Contracts can trump will provisions just like certain laws borne out of public policy.
If you’re looking to do your last will and testament free, something else you want to keep in mind is how your estate plan will contend with various key questions that not uncommonly arise. For instance, have you ever wondered if trusts are only for the rich & famous, or whether you might also benefit from avoiding probate, etc.? Similarly, if you lean towards a Living Trust, is a Revocable Living Trust enough)? Perhaps of utmost importance, have you considered or paused to wonder who would raise your children or grandchildren if something happened to you or their parents? Some of these are tough issues to tackle, from a legal standpoint, for people who do their last will and testament free.
Last Will And Testament Free… But The Verbiage Is Expensive!
If you want to set up your last will and testament free, you’ll also want to be prepared to not daunted by the high dollar legal jargon. For instance, don’t be surprised if you set out to write your own will and come across terms like “exordium clause,” “tangible personal property,” and “specific and general bequests.” Similarly, if you come across some free help for doing a trust, be prepared to know how to go about drafting a preamble. You’ll want to know how to properly identify your assets.
I hope you found this information on doing a Last Will And Testament Free helpful, and I invite you to pick up my Free Consumer Briefing Advisory Report and complimentary “Audio Sessions” while it’s still available.
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