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Do you need a will? Watch this video by Buffalo Estate Planning Lawyer Thomas F. Hewner for guidance on whether or not you need a will. If you have questions about wills, trusts, or estate planning, please contact us to schedule a consultation with an experienced Buffalo estate planning attorney. Let our experience work for you.
- Some people actually do not need a will. If they’ve set up their estate so that their children are named as beneficiaries, established joint accounts with their children, or put them on the title of specific assets, a will may not be needed. If, for example, you just have three children and no spouse, the law says it goes to the three children, and you might be okay with not having a will.
- Many people need wills regardless of their assets, such as young family members who may need a will to state that if they die, they want their assets to go to each other. They also want to make sure their assets go to their children. If the children are young, they want to establish a trust for their benefit, rather than having assets go directly to the children. If the children are under 18, assets go into a guardianship account monitored in surrogate court. A trust is established for the children with terms that set the length of the trust and name the individuals who will be in charge.
- Three groups of people will be in charge of various aspects of your late life. Your executor deals with the estate as a short-term job by picking up your assets, paying your bills, and distributing things as you said to distribute them. For most couples, this is the surviving spouse, with an alternate named to serve if both were gone. When there are children, the executor turns the remaining assets over to the trustee, whose job lasts longer because, the trust will be in place until the children reach 21, potentially through funding their education.
- A guardian is the actual caretaker who will take responsibility for your children until they reach majority. Many people can only think of a very few people they would trust with their kids and their money, and the guardian, the trustee, and the successor executor or trustee are all the same people. Think carefully before naming your parents as guardians.
- If you have a spouse and children and die without a will, the spouse gets the first 50%, and the other 50% of your assets are divided between the spouse and the children. It’s smart to have a basic will that says, “I give everything to my spouse.”
- One sad issue arises when people leave people out of their wills. Spouses, children, and families have different relationships and, someone may choose to give assets to some of their children, but not to others. If you decide to do that, it must be clearly indicated in a will.