Creating a will is the cornerstone of estate planning, don’t underestimate the need for a valid, legal will. It is necessary, even if you have a living trust, to name an executor for your estate, to name a guardian for any children under the age of 18 and to distribute or ‘pour over’ any property not owned by a living trust.
The popularity of do it yourself will kits and forms has increased over the past decade, but there are four things that may be missing from this estate planning document that can make a big difference on how smoothly your estate is ‘settled.’
Successor Executors and Guardians
Naming an executor and a guardian is an important part of drafting a will, but what happens if these people are unwilling, unable or even unavailable to serve in that capacity? Naming a backup, or successor, is critical to keeping these choices within your control.
Many probate courts require the executor of an estate to post a bond to ensure the estate and its assets are protected and debts are paid. Without a will that explicitly waives the need for a probate bond, courts may mandate their purchase, meaning more time and expense for your executor.
Unfortunately, wills aren’t updated as often as they should be. Life changes, and your estate planning documents should change with it. A will should have ‘backup’ beneficiaries in case one or more of your named beneficiaries has since passed away.
Self Proving Affidavits
A will needs to be properly witnessed by at least two parties. A self proving affidavit is an attached document signed by a notary public that shows the will was properly signed and witnessed and that it is the will of the person who signed it. Many states accept these affidavits in lieu of actual witness testimony, and it avoids the time and expense of the executor having to track down the witnesses.
An estate planning attorney can help you create a will that not only has all of the aspects that help your loved ones get through the administration of your estate, but work with you on other estate planning tools that can help meet your needs.