One of the most essential aspects of planning your estate is writing your will. However, most people do not have a good idea of what they might need to consider before they begin writing. Here are five major issues you should think about when you are writing your will:
- What property do you own?
- This seems like an obvious point, but before you can write your will, you first need to know what property you need to dispose of when you pass away. After all, you can only designate someone to inherit money or property if it is your property to dispose of. For most people, this is not a complicated problem, but if you own a significant amount of property or have complex investments or holdings, this can be a surprisingly difficult issue to sort out. And problems can arise later if you fail to dispose of your property adequately.
- Who do you want to inherit your property?
- Once you know what property you have, the next step is to figure out who you want to inherit it when you are gone. Typically, this means giving away your property to family members, friends, or other people important to you, but you can also designate a portion of your estate to be given to churches, universities, museums, or other similar organizations. Make sure you have a complete list of who you want your estate given to, so you do not accidentally leave someone out.
- Who do you not want to inherit?
- Conversely, there may be people you definitively do not want to inherit from you who otherwise might. This is because, due to a legal principle known as intestacy, any property you own that is not disposed of by your will becomes distributed to your family in accordance with the state’s intestacy law. If you choose to disinherit certain family members, however, they will not inherit even if they otherwise would.
- What happens if your will is contested?
- It is probably not surprising to hear that some people get into fights over inheritances, which often includes contesting the will. If it is successfully contested, some or all your property will fall into intestacy, and even if it is not, it can be extremely costly to fight a lawsuit by a family member contesting the will. That is why many wills include a “no-contest” clause, which disinherits anyone who attempts to contest a will and fails. While it cannot completely protect you from the threat of someone contesting your will after death, it can dissuade family members looking to waste time and money to get a bigger piece of your estate.
- What happens if you miss something?
- No matter how thorough you are in writing your will, there is always the risk that you may miss something. As stated above, if you fail to dispose of any property in your will, it normally falls into intestacy. However, you can write a residuary clause into your will, which designates one or more people as recipients of any property not specifically mentioned in the rest of the will. Aside from allowing you to avoid intestacy, it also resolves the problem of what happens if you happen to gain more property between when you last updated your will and when you pass away.
The estate law attorneys at Blodnick, Fazio & Clark are ready to assist you with your writing your will and planning your estate. With offices conveniently located in Garden City, Nassau County, and Babylon, Suffolk County, the firm provides high-quality legal care at reasonable prices. If you are seeking representation in an estate law matter, call (516) 280-7105 or fill out our contact form for a free consultation.