It’s Not Only About the Money. The problem with simple wills is that they generally deal with who gets the stuff. General will plans for married families typically distribute assets “all to spouse then to my kids in equal shares.” Consider this question… is money the only thing you give to your kids? Don’t we also give our kids other valuable things: respect, work ethic, religion, morals? Of course, we do. Unfortunately, this is where simple wills fail. There is no written plan for how our kids should be raised. It is better practice to think through what’s really important in your family. A good estate plan will write out those wishes. Then, the legal documents can ensure those wishes are carried out.
- They Only Deal with Death Wills often name decision makers and dictate where the assets go in the event of an untimely death. They may also name guardians for small children. BUT… wills only matter after you pass away. They don’t matter if you’re still alive. So, what would happen if you became severely disabled in an accident but didn’t pass away. Aren’t those same instructions regarding your assets and family important if you are in a coma for a decade?
- Simple Wills Don’t Protect Assets If you leave all your assets to a family member, those assets just became subject to that family member’s predators and creditors. Estate Planning is a time to be practical. Let’s assume I (like you) leave all the life insurance money to my spouse. Let’s assume that 5 years later (I would hope not 5 months later) she decides to remarry. What if she chooses the wrong person and he later files for divorce? What happened to all the money? The same analysis would apply to your children if they marry the wrong person. The same analysis applies to other risks like your heirs being sued for a future car accident, etc. A great estate plan would consider these future risks. After all, you’re not paying the life insurance premiums so that your family’s future spouses become wealthy, are you?
Editor’s Note: This article was written by Tim Sechler, Esq., a Certified Elder Law Attorney and Principal of Sechler Law Firm, LLC.