“Everyone should have a will.” You’ve probably heard this advice from everyone from your financial advisor to your great uncle Larry. It is good advice. At least, it is true that everyone should have a plan for the distribution of their assets when they die. The advantages of estate planning are numerous and include:
Avoiding lengthy probate: With the right strategy, you may be able to avoid having your will go through the probate process which can be expensive and time consuming, resulting in a reduction in the amount of your estate and a long waiting time before your loved ones can receive their inheritance. Even if you cannot avoid probate, you can draft your will so that it passes more quickly through the process.
Tax advantages:Creating an estate plan, which may include a will but may also incorporate other instruments such as trusts or transferring co-ownership rights prior to your death, may reduce the amount of taxes your loved ones will owe the state and federal government when they receive their inheritance.
Making your wishes known: No matter how small your estate, estate planning will help make sure that your loved ones know your wishes. When thinking about your will, you are most likely considering who you would like to receive your property such as your car, your house, and the money in your savings account. You will, however, can also designate people who you would like to assume the care of your pets, and, perhaps most importantly, can also suggest who you would like to have the custody of your children.
This is where estate planning law intersects with family law. Family law is the body of law that deals with familial relationships. For example, an attorney practicing family law often handles divorces, marital agreements, spousal support issues, and child custody arrangements. No matter the structure of your family, you should always consider any family law issues particular to your life when planning your estate.
For example, even if you are happily married, sometimes both members of a couple die at the same time, such as in the event of a car accident. Your will should consider who you would like to have custody your children in the event both parents die or are unable to continue guardianship. When planning your estate, it is best to talk with your chosen guardian in advance and make sure that you have appropriately allocated the resources of your estate to help your designated guardian absorb the financial strain of assuming custody of your kids. Note, a court may not uphold your designation; before awarding custody, a court will fully consider the interests of your children, but your designation can make things clearer both for the court and for your loved ones.
Making your wishes known regarding custody issues is perhaps even more important if you are divorced from the other biological parent of your children. If you have a strong preference regarding who will assume custody of your children, it is very important that you preserve your wishes in your will.
These issues are just a few of those you may encounter as you plan your estate and think about the future for your children if you are no longer around to care for them. Consider starting to find a family law lawyer who can help you incorporate planning for your family into planning for your estate.