Many clients search online for do-it-yourself estate planning forms or call an estate planning law firm asking for prices for a simple will. They are often convinced that it is a standard form where you simply change out the names and execute it. In these situations, we start to ask these clients some questions and slowly reveal to them that it may end up being a not-so-simple will after all.
One of the first points we make is whether you have grandchildren and if so, do you intend to leave them an inheritance? If so, then a simple will does not contain the appropriate language to do this. If your grandchildren are minors, they cannot inherit outright under your will. There are many options for leaving grandchildren an inheritance, some of the most popular include:
- Creating another portion of your assets to be split among all the grandchildren. For example, if you have three children and six grandchildren, you would divide your estate in four portions. The three adult children would inherit ¼ each. All six grandchildren would divide the remaining ¼ portion.
- Set up an education trust and fund it with certain assets, like 529 plans, to be used for the health, education, maintenance and support of your grandchildren.
- Leave a specified amount under your will to grandchildren and direct that your executor establish a testamentary trust so that a trustee manages the assets for the benefit of your grandchildren according to terms that you decide. You can determine what age the children can access the assets and impose conditions on them to inherit (such as graduate from college).
Are you concerned about the spouses your adult children married and how they will gain access to any inheritance? If so, there are asset protection strategies available that allow you to set up a bloodline trust which protects those assets during a divorce and also from creditors.
Are you in a second or subsequent marriage? Do you or your spouse have children from previous marriages? A simple will is not going to properly allocate assets among natural and adopted children and stepchildren. This will take careful drafting by an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure that you treat each family member the way you intend.
Beneficiaries with Disabilities
Do you have a family member, spouse, child, grandchild or potential beneficiary who suffers from a disability or mental illness? Is this person now receiving SSI, Medicaid or other government benefits or is it likely they will need these in the future? If so, you will need to set up a third-party special needs trust that either you establish now or direct your executor to establish at your death.
Anyone who owns a business will not fit the category of a simple will client. Business interests can be complex and business succession plans need to properly align with personal estate plans of all owners.
Do you have a retirement account that you intend to leave to someone other than your spouse? Your will may need to include terms for setting up either a conduit trust or an accumulation trust to assist your beneficiaries in the best way to inherit a retirement account.
As you can see, many of these are very common issues. A simple will rarely works for the majority of clients. Our intake process helps you identify some of these special circumstances so that you can properly address them in the estate planning process. For more information, contact the estate planning attorneys at Stouffer Legal in the Greater Baltimore area. You can schedule an appointment by calling us at (443) 470-3599 or emailing us at email@example.com.