Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament is what many people think of first when they think of estate planning. A last will and testament is a written directive you make while you are alive that provides direction about the distribution of your assets after you have died. Because you will not be around to clarify any ambiguities in your instructions, it is very important that your last will and testament includes clear and carefully considered language. Furthermore, because it is inefficient to draft new wills every few weeks, it is important that your will contemplate what happens if circumstances that were present when your will was drafted change by the time you die. Finally, because a last will and testament is a powerful tool for transferring wealth, there are detailed laws regarding the circumstances in which a will is executed that are intended to prevent abuse. If these rules regarding the proper execution of a will are violated, your will may be rendered unenforceable after your death. For this reason, it is important to work with an attorney who can make sure that your wishes are memorialized in a way that is clear and compliant with applicable law.
A will can include “specific bequests” and “general bequests.” A “specific bequest” is the identification of a specific asset that goes to a specific entity, such as a gift of particular bank account to a particular person. A “general bequest” is the identification of a percentage of your assets to be distributed to a specific entity, such as a gift of “25% of my estate” to “my daughter, Mary.” A will should indicate what happens to a bequest if one of your designated recipients does not survive you. Should the property go the heirs of the deceased recipient or should it go to another person you have specifically identified? At Schulz Reagan, LLC, we strive to make sure our clients have wills that accomplish our clients’ goals even in the face of the unexpected.
Among the many important decisions you will need to make when you complete your will is who will serve as your personal representative. The personal representative is the entity charged with putting your will into effect. The personal representative will be responsible for gathering your assets, securing them, and working within the confines of Indiana law to distribute your assets as called for in your will.
Your will may also direct who you want to serve as guardian(s) of your minor children or disabled adult children in the case of your death. Successor guardians can also be identified. Specific instructions regarding the care of your children can be made through your will.
Many people use their wills simply as a tool to transfer otherwise unaddressed assets into a trust. This type of will is called a pour-over will. The use of a pour-over will and a well-considered trust is a popular estate planning option. A pour-over will serves to simplify the probate process and enables distributions to specific entities to happen outside of the court-supervised probate process through a trust.
Disclaimer: This summary is not intended to be comprehensive, and should not be construed as legal advice for your particular situation. Nothing in this website is intended to substitute for legal representation.