Do you have a will? If so, does your last will and testament reflect your wishes or will the fate of your estate be in the hands of the state?
A discussion was held recently with attorneys from the Atlanta firm, MendenFreiman LLP, during which attorney Paige Baker explained that establishing a will puts control of your assets and guardianship of your children in your hands.
For many – especially young people – the thought of preparing for one’s death is uncomfortable and something easily pushed to the back burner.
But, as the saying goes, two things in life are certain: death and taxes.
The most basic purpose of a last will and testament is that it directs how your assets are distributed upon your death and it lays out who will care for any minor children.
One of the most important tasks when creating your will is identifying an executor. The executor is the person responsible for executing the will. Very simply, this person is responsible for prioritizing and paying off any debts, winding down the business conducted during your life, making sure the appropriate taxes are paid, and then putting your assets into an estate account. This can get a little tricky if there are assets – such as real estate – in multiple states. Each state has its own probate laws and procedures, so the executor will need to be able to navigate those waters.
Family dynamics are often complicated and sometimes messy, so it may be advisable to name an executor who has some emotional distance. It may even be a good idea to hire a corporate trustee.
If you should die without a will in place, what is called “intestacy,” the state will be the one to serve as executor of your estate. After all the debts and taxes are settled, the remaining assets will be distributed to your “heirs at law,” who will be determined by the courts at the time of your death.
Even though estate planning is important for protecting your assets and heirs after your death, life does go on. A will can be updated any time in response to changes in your family, your health, your assets or your priorities. In fact, it is a good idea to review these documents every three years to make sure they reflect your most current circumstances.
Please let us know how we can help you with any of your estate planning needs.