Last Will & Testament
A Last Will and Testament, more commonly known as a Will, is a legal document that allows you to:
- provide, in an enforceable way, to whom your wealth will pass upon your death
- communicate how your assets will be distributed
- appoint guardians for minor children
In your Will, you name your executor —the person who will manage your affairs after your death. The responsibilities of your executor includes paying all your outstanding taxes and debts, and making distributions to those entitled to share in your estate.
A Will is essential to ensuring that your decisions are honored after you are gone.
Creating a Will allows you to leave your property to whomever you wish. You can make sure that the right people or charities get the right amount at the right time in the right way.
If you have children under the age of 18, it is critical that you have a Will. If you were to die and leave your child parentless, someone else would have to provide care and guidance. But through your Will, you get to choose who this person is.What Happens if I Don’t Have a Will?
Simply put, if you don’t have a Will, the state will determine who receives your assets and who will care for your minor children. Someone other than you will be making all the decisions!
While Connecticut law does give the surviving parent guardianship of minor children, what would happen if there are no surviving parents? Without a Will, it will be left to a judge to decide who your child’s guardian will be.
In the case of property, if you die without a Will, or “intestate”, again, the State of Connecticut will decide how your estate is divided up based on your circumstances.
However, it’s important to note that a Will doesn’t decide everything. There are some assets that would pass to a surviving co-owner or named beneficiary such as:
- Property that’s been transferred to a living trust
- Life insurance proceeds
- Funds in an IRA, 401K or other retirement account
- Securities held in a transfer on death account
- Payable on death bank accounts
- Vehicles held by transfer on death registration
- Property you own with someone else in joint tenancy
Every adult, regardless of age, should have an estate plan that includes a Will. If you have not done so already, having your wishes documented should be at the top of your to-do list. Preparing for the future in this way not only make things a bit easier for your loved ones when you pass, but also gives you some say in matter on how you (not the state) want things handled after you are gone.
If you already have a Will, that’s excellent planning on your part – but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are done with your estate planning. Even in just a few years, your Will can become outdated due to changes in tax laws, your personal life, health, or finances. There may have been changes in your life such as a divorce, a birth, a death, or family relationship dynamics since your Will was originally written. That’s why it’s necessary to periodically review (and revise, if needed) your document to make sure it accurately fits with your current circumstances.
A note of caution when it comes to preparing or a revising a Will – it is not a do-it-yourself job. It is best to work with a qualified Connecticut estate planning attorney to ensure the Will is properly written, includes relevant language to your jurisdiction, and does not end up having unintended consequences (such as a Will contest or assets going to the wrong beneficiaries) because the Will has not been done correctly.
What you have earned and saved over a lifetime of hard work means a lot to you, so having a properly prepared Will as part of your estate plan is a must to make sure that your wishes are communicated and carried out.
Need help creating or updating your Will? Contact us. We can help.
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