Advantages and Disadvantages of a Last Will
When it comes to estate planning, creating a last will is often the first thing that comes to mind. A last will is a legal document that outlines how a person's assets will be distributed after their death. While there are several advantages to having a last will, there are also a few disadvantages to consider.
Advantages of a Last Will
Choose your executor. With a last will, you have complete control over who will be in charge of making sure your bequests are carried out. You can choose someone who is willing and able to handle everything that is involved with the closing of your estate. Without a will, a court appoints someone to administer your estate, and that person may not be someone you would choose.
Bequest property to family and loved ones. A last will allows you to choose who will receive what from your estate. If you do not have a will, your estate will be subject to the state laws of “intestacy.” This means the people you would like to benefit from your estate may receive less than they should or nothing. In contrast, a last will allows you to ensure that your long-term partner, who you are not married to, or your estranged spouse, do not receive your assets.
Name a guardian for children and provide for them. With a last will, you can choose a guardian for your children and set aside funds to ensure their support and comfort.
Create a testamentary trust. You can create a testamentary trust within your will to hold property for another person's benefit, for example, your children.
Revocable. A last will can be revoked if it no longer represents your interests.
Plan for personal matters. You can cover anything from your burial arrangements to your pet's care in your will.
Amend it. You can amend any provisions of your will whenever you want so that they best reflect your most current wishes and assets.
Affordability. Creating a last will is surprisingly affordable, especially if your finances, assets, and beneficiaries are somewhat straightforward.
Disadvantages of a Last Will
Public. Your will becomes public record once it is filed for probate. This means anyone can search for your will and see its contents.
Need for probate. If your will does not catch all your assets and they are worth more than a certain amount, then your will must be filed for probate, which can be a long and costly process. In contrast, you can draft a living trust to avoid probate.
May not fully address your tax concerns. A will that is not carefully planned out could leave your estate open to paying large state and/or federal estate taxes or your beneficiaries to paying hefty inheritance taxes.
Contests. It is possible that someone could challenge your will. However, if you have followed all of the proper procedures in its creation, your will and its provisions will likely stand.
While there are some disadvantages to creating a last will, the advantages often outweigh them. With a last will, you can choose your executor, bequest property to family and loved ones, name a guardian for children, create a testamentary trust, plan for personal matters, amend it, and it's affordable. However, it is important to understand the potential drawbacks, such as its public nature, the need for probate, tax concerns, and contests. Overall, consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney can help ensure that your last will reflects your wishes and protects your assets.