Estate planning is the process of planning and projecting the administration and consequent disposal of your estate, inclusive of all assets and finances, during your lifetime but most essentially after your death.
Effectively planning your estate is one of the crucial things you will do for your loved ones and yourself. Without efficient estate planning, there is a considerable chance that after your death, everything you have spent your whole life accumulating might be lost.
And worse, your estate dissipated in a manner inconsistent with your wishes; thus, there’s a need for a will.
Read on below to see more reasons why it is essential to create a will to protect your loved ones.
What is a will?
A will is a legal document that sets out the intention/wishes of a person as to how their estate is to be managed/distributed after their death. It speaks on your behalf even when you are no longer breathing; it states who receives your property and what measure.
It is not just enough to have a will; you must ensure that your will is competent and valid under the relevant law because an illegal/invalid will be the same as no will.
Therefore, the making of a will is fundamentally significant, with far-reaching consequences if not correctly drafted and prepared.
Features of a valid will
- The maker of the will must be of legal age, that is, must be of 18 years and above.
- The will must be made voluntarily, without any external pressure or unnecessary duress from any person.
- The owner of the will, better known as the testator, must have been of sound mind when writing the will. He/she must know the nature and the extent of their estate and must understand that they are disposing of their assets.
- There should be an intention of the testator to make the will when he/she is making the document.
- A valid will is always in writing, and in no other form, it must be appropriately signed and dated by the testator in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign the document. It should be noted that these two parties should not be beneficiaries under the will.
In ensuring that your will fulfills all these requirements, you must employ the service of a competent legal/will attorney in the process of drafting your will.
The legal attorney will also provide helpful advice on various estate planning strategies and the one that suits your estate the most.
Why is it important to create a will to protect your loved ones?
It is vital for you to create a valid will while you are still alive, to safeguard your loved ones for the following reasons
A will displaces the application of probate state or customary laws as the testator would have given directives on how his assets are shared amongst his loved ones.
The estate’s administrator will respect this and also ensure the instructions are out to the latter.
Doing this will help heirs to avoid probate and unnecessary hassles as this reduce friction amongst the beneficiaries of the will and help to protect the family ties.
- You have the opportunity to include a life interest trust in your will. This allows you to give a trustee the responsibility of managing your asset for the eventual benefit of the beneficiary who is your loved ones.
- Where you have minors as children, creating a will allows you to appoint a guardian who takes personal responsibility for your children until they are of legal age. In cases where they are of legal age, but you do not want them to have access to the real estate and other assets bequeathed to them yet, a legal will allow you to set up a trust for them.
- It is important to create a will to ensure your estate planning goes as planned. When you create a will, you can ensure that your dependents, including old-aged parents, family members, and perhaps stepchildren, are adequately provided for in your will.
- Creating a will also lets you appoint people you trust as executors/administrators of your will. You can rest assured that they will express your advice and opinions on each subject matter and ensure that your loved ones are protected, as stated in your will.
- The administration of a testate estate (when the estate owner has a will before they die) is cheaper than the administration of an intestate estate (death without a valid will). This reduces the costs involved in applying for the grant of letters of administration, which does not affect the estate value.
Ultimately, knowing your loved ones have been adequately provided for by you, such that after your demise, you can guarantee they would live a good life and give you peace of mind.
Please note that a will is something that can be amended heavily by drafting a new will or adding a codicil to the existing will. Likewise, it can also be revoked by you at any time as long as you are alive.
Dying without writing a will means you die intestate, and the implication of this is that your assets will be dissipated according to the relevant laws of your state through the probate process.
A judge will appoint an estate administrator who most likely will be a stranger to your family, and bound by the state laws.
The administrator will dissolve your estate in a manner that may be inconsistent with your wish and largely unbeneficial to your heirs and loved ones. There is no denying that preparing a will saves and protects your family, especially your loved ones.