Wills are rather sensitive to both the owner and the beneficiaries. The owner knows that this is their very last words after they are gone, which is why they are deemed to be so important.
The heirs are left in anticipation of what they will receive – if anything, and when there are huge estates and finances at stake, everything can get a little tense.
A significant percentage of the UK populations have no will or basic knowledge of drawing one. Reasons for such oversights range from; they just haven’t gotten around to creating their will or trust, thinking that wills are for people with estates and a fortune at stake, to the fear that if they write a will, they will die. In reality, there is no direct link between death and writing a will.
The truth is that most people don’t know a lot about the facts surrounding trusts, wills and probate. We have allowed word of mouth to misguide us into believing in some groundless utterances.
Below is a list of some common myths about wills.
Wills are for rich people
Whether you own a few pennies and a simple house or a huge estate with many businesses, it is your choice to determine where they end up once you die.
If you die without a will, the little you have will be distributed under intestate succession law and it may end up with your estranged family member rather than a friend or a charity you have always supported.
Most estate plans will include power of attorney and healthcare – these are the most important things everyone needs so that they can appoint someone to act on their behalf once they are incapacitated.
Additionally, you can name a guardian to your children in the event of an untimely demise. Otherwise, the court will decide who raises them if you do not have a will.
For a trust, you must hire a lawyer to plan your estate even when the will is pretty straight forward.
Without a will, everything goes to my spouse
This is a common assumption by many that once you die, everything automatically goes to your spouse. Lack of a will warrants the court to divide property according to law.
This could result in all kinds of problems, especially if the spouse was fully dependent and the deceased had children from a previous relationship.
To avoid this, put an arrangement in place. The surviving spouse should know what is supposed to happen after death has occurred.
A will shields my estate from going through probate
All wills must go through probate before they are executed to determine the legality and validity of the will, and also to notify all debtor and creditors. This process takes months to clear and takes a substantial amount of money from the estate.
To avoid probate, you may have to put your assets in a trust. A trust is a document that holds details like real estate and brokerage accounts outlining exactly how assets will pass to beneficiaries.
Transfer of assets held in a trust will happen outside probate, therefore, saving the heirs money and time.
Either way, not everyone needs probate – depending on the state you are in, you can weigh your options as some states exempt a fair amount from probate.
If you have property in more than one state, you should certainly get a trust, otherwise, your estates will undergo probate in multiple states. Additionally, a trust is a private document, whereas wills become public when undergoing probate and anyone can come to the hearing.
If I have a will or I have set up a trust, I am all set
Writing a will or setting up a trust is not the end of the road for you and it is a common misconception that causes a lot of undue stress. Some activities like retitling assets that need to be transferred to the trust are overlooked and that renders the trust document useless after death.
The will, as well as the trust, need to be periodically updated to incorporate changes in life to include events like divorce, the death of a beneficiary, the birth of an heir and so on. If you change residence from one state to another, you need to visit a lawyer and make the relevant changes.
While still in your state, visit your lawyer every few years – usually every 4 or 5 to discuss changes that may affect your will.
A will puts me in danger of being held responsible for the deceased’s debts
When mourning the deceased, the last thing one expects is a creditor’s phone call to collect a debt owed by the deceased. Children are not responsible for their parent’s debts by virtue of being in the will. Even spouses are limited depending on probate law.
The estate should cover debts and if it cannot cover them, those debts go unpaid. If debt collectors call, give them the solicitors contact or will executor’s contact if no will was left.
Without a Will, the state gets everything
There are many reasons for writing a will and worrying about the state grabbing your property is not one of them. If you die intestate (without a valid will) then the law kicks in, stating who gets what, depending on that state’s law.
In most states, the spouse and children are first in line to be considered. You should think about your 4-year old getting half of your money at a tender age and lay in place a will to prevent such a thing happening. There are cases where the state gets the assets but only when there is no living relative found.
In other instances, the person tasked with wrapping up your estate can miraculously turn up your aunt’s long-lost grandson from your mother’s side (referred to as ‘escheat’) and the state doesn’t get your property. To prevent this, get your will in order to decide where your assets go when you die.
A will solves more problems than it creates and allows the deceased’s last wishes to be executed in their absence. Most of the reasons surrounding the negative implications of a will are predominantly untrue.
To ensure that you do not fail to write a will for all the wrong reasons, get in touch with a solicitor to establish the facts.