A Discussion of Wills, Part 3: Beware of “Simple” Estate Plans

Minneapolis Estate Planning and Probate Lawyer Explains the Dangers of Getting a “Simple Will”

“I just need a simple will.”  It’s a phrase I hear practically every other day.   From the client’s perspective, there’s no reason to do anything complicated, especially if it might lead to higher legal fees.  Unfortunately, what may appear to be a “simple” estate is all too often rife with complications that, if not addressed during the planning process, can create a nightmare for you and your heirs at some point in the future.   Such complications may include:

Probate Probate is the court process whereby property is transferred after death to individuals named in a will or specified by law if there is no will. Probate can be expensive, public and time consuming.  A revocable living trust is a great alternative that allows your estate to be managed more efficiently, at a lower cost and with more privacy than probating a will.  A living trust can be more expensive to establish, but will avoid a complex probate proceeding. Even in states where probate is relatively simple, you may wish to set up a living trust to hold out of state property or for other reasons.

A client once came to me to discuss how to handle his mother’s estate. He had a will that she signed just days before her death.  I looked at the will and immediately realized there were several issues with it. “Where did she get this will?” I asked.  He explained that they purchased the form from a stationary store and did not have any guidance in how to properly fill it out and sign it. Unfortunately, because there were several issues with the will, we had to open a formal probate to ask the court for assistance in handling the matter. This lead to a delay of several months and cost them several thousand dollars more than if they had been given proper guidance on how to complete the will in the first place.  Don’t let this happen to you. Contact Unique Estate Law now to speak with a knowledgeable probate attorney.

Minor Children – If you have minor children, you not only need to nominate a guardian, but you also need to set up a trust to hold property for those children. If both parents pass away, and the child does not have a trust, the child’s inheritance could be held by the court until he or she turns 18, at which time the entire inheritance may be given to the child. By setting up a trust, which doesn’t have to come into existence until you pass away, you are ensuring that any money left to your child can be used for educational and living expenses and can be administered by someone you trust.  You can also protect the inheritance you leave your beneficiaries from a future divorce as well as creditors.

Second Marriages – Couples in which one or both of the spouses have children from a prior relationship should carefully consider whether a “simple” will is adequate. All too often, spouses execute simple wills in which they leave everything to each other, and then divide the property among their children. After the first spouse passes away, the second spouse inherits everything. That spouse may later get remarried and leave everything he or she received to the new spouse or to his or her own children, thereby depriving the former spouse’s children of any inheritance.  Couples in such situations should establish a special marital trust to ensure children of both spouses will be provided for.