The first document you create will likely be a Last Will and Testament when you decide to get started on an estate plan. Creating your first Will can be intimidating given the importance of the document. Taking the time to contemplate what you need and want in your Will ahead of time will make the process run smoother and help ensure that your Will accomplishes what you want it to accomplish. Toward that end, a Los Angeles estate planning attorney at Schomer Law Group, APC offers some questions you should ask yourself before creating your Will.
Last Will and Testament Basics
A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that communicates your final wishes regarding how you want your assets handled after you are gone. You can make specific or general gifts in your Will. Leaving your home to an adult child is an example of a specific gift while leaving 50 percent of your entire estate is a general gift. You will also appoint someone as your Executor in your Will whose job is to oversee the administration of your estate and nominate a guardian for your minor children if you have any.
Questions to Consider When Making Your Will
Although you will probably need to consider additional questions based on your unique circumstances when creating your Will, the following are some common questions that most people need to consider:
- What if the best type of Will for me? Most people do not recognize that all Wills are not the same. Specialized Wills address special circumstances. For example, if you own assets in another country, a simple Will may not be enough. Instead, you may need an International Will or you might need to create a second Will in the country where your assets are located. At some point down the road, you may also need a Pour-Over Will to cover assets inadvertently left out of a trust if you decide you use a trust as your primary method of distributing estate assets.
- What are my estate assets and what are they worth? You undoubtedly have a general idea of what you own and what your overall net worth is; however, when you create your Will, you need a very detailed picture of your estate assets and their worth. Create a list of all assets, where they are located, and what the current market value of each asset is.
- Which assets will need to go through probate? Probate is the legal process that most estates go through before assets can be distributed to beneficiaries or heirs. Not all assets, however, are required to go through probate. Non-probate assets can typically be transferred or distributed to the beneficiary shortly after your death. Common examples of non-probate assets include trust assets, proceeds of a life insurance policy, and certain types of jointly held property. Identifying which assets are probate assets is crucial prior to creating your Will.
- Who are my beneficiaries and are any of them minors? It is probably easy to identify most of your beneficiaries; however, make a list to be sure you haven’t forgotten anyone, such as your favorite charity, religious organizations, or your alma matter. If you plan to leave any of your assets to minor children, you must take extra care when creating your Will because minors cannot inherit directly from your estate. That means that assets left to a minor using your Will must be managed by an adult until the child reaches the age of majority. Creating a trust to guard those assets is usually recommended.
- Who should be my Executor? Given the importance of the duties and responsibilities of your Executor, choosing your Executor should be done after careful consideration. Keep in mind that if you appoint a family member or close friend that person will also be grieving your loss when acting as your Executor.
Contact a Los Angeles Estate Planning Attorney
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about estate planning, or you are ready to get started on your Last Will and Testament, contact an experienced Los Angeles estate planning attorney at Schomer Law Group APC by calling (310) 337-7696 to schedule an appointment.