Wills & Directives
Almost everyone needs a will.
If you die without a will, state law will determine who inherits your property. Making out a will lets you choose who your property passes to and in what proportions.
Won’t my spouse get everything if I don’t make out a will?
Joint ownership of property is not a good substitute for carefully drafted wills. As a result of an accident, both you and your spouse may die before the survivor has an opportunity to execute a new will, thereby causing the property to be distributed according to state inheritance laws. We recommend that every individual have their own will.
For larger estates (generally those with assets valued in excess of $1,000,000), properly drafted wills and an estate plan can often provide significant savings in federal and state tax.
Can I write my own will?
The law is very exacting in its requirements with respect to the publication, signing and witnessing of wills. It is recommended that the preparation and execution of a will be handled by a competent attorney. Homemade or “do-it- yourself” wills often do not stand up in court.
What happens at my death?
Upon your death, your will must be probated and your estate administered. The will is formally offered in court; the personal representative is approved by the court; an estate inventory is prepared and filed; debts and taxes are recognized and paid; and finally, the representative files his or her account and requests that the remaining estate assets be distributed in accordance with your wishes as stated in the will.
In the absence of a will, the procedure is the same except that the court, not you, makes many of the critical decisions. In addition, the process is likely to take longer. In the meantime, your assets may be tied up for quite a while before being distributed by the court in accordance with state laws on inheritance.
I already have a will. Do I need to do anything else?
You should review your will every few years, particularly if you have moved or if your family situation (i.e., divorce, birth of a child, death of a beneficiary, etc.) has changed since you last executed a will. State laws vary as to formal requirements and as to the rights of children and grandchildren born after a will was executed.
Several changes have been made in the federal estate tax provisions in recent years and if your estate exceeds the tax threshold and your will has not been updated, you should call your attorney as soon as possible.