Most people recognize that a will is one of the most important components of any estate plan, and yet plenty of people overlook it and never get around to creating a will. You may be most familiar with the benefit of a will after helping a loved one navigate the process of probate.
Being appointed as someone else’s executor or personal representative can open your eyes to the many challenges that may emerge when someone doesn’t do estate planning. A will is an important consideration in your estate plan, but it may not go far enough to cover all of your needs. Your will does allow you to name a guardian for any dependent minor children and helps you to decide who you want to receive certain property when you pass away.
With no will in place, the courts will determine who is appointed guardian for your children and who receives what. However, some assets do not pass outside of probate and therefore cannot be addressed in your will. This includes annuities, life insurance policies, individual retirement accounts and 401(k) plans. You will need to separately have beneficiary designation forms filed with each one of those management companies to ensure that your wishes have been documented. You may also need additional estate planning tools such as a trust, especially if you want to have further control over the transfer of those assets.
Bear in mind that you may be limited and who you can name as beneficiaries because issues like 401(k) plans may require your current spouse to be the beneficiary unless they legally agree otherwise.
Ready to talk through your options? Meet with our Pasadena estate planning lawyers now.