Planning For Your Family Future

Protect Your Legacy Today!
Schedule

What Your Last Will & Testament Will (And Will Not) Do- Part 2

August 28, 2022 •  Legacy Law LLC
August is “National Make-A-Will Month,” and if you have already prepared your will, congratulations—too few Americans have taken this key first step in the estate planning process. In fact, only 33% of Americans have created their will, according to Caring.com’s 2022 Wills and Estate Planning Study.  Yet, while having a will is important—and all adults […]

August is “National Make-A-Will Month,” and if you have already prepared your will, congratulations—too few Americans have taken this key first step in the estate planning process. In fact, only 33% of Americans have created their will, according to Caring.com’s 2022 Wills and Estate Planning Study

Yet, while having a will is important—and all adults over age 18 should have this document in place—for all but a few people, creating a will is just one small part of an effective estate plan that works to keep your loved ones out of court and out of conflict. With this in mind, this series discusses exactly what having a will in place will—and will not—do for you and your loved ones in terms of estate planning.

Last week, in part one, we looked at the different things having a will in place allows you to do. Here, in part two, we detail all of the things that your will does not do, along with identifying the specific estate planning tools and strategies that you should have in place to make up for the potential blind spots that exist in an estate plan that consists of only a will.  


If you have yet to create your will, or you haven’t reviewed your existing will recently, contact us, your Personal Family Lawyer® to get this vital first step in your estate planning handled right away.

What A Will Won’t Do

While a will is a necessary part of most estate plans, your will is typically a very small part of a comprehensive estate plan. To demonstrate, here are the things you should not expect your will to accomplish:

1. Keep your family out of court: Following your death,in order for assets in your will to be transferred to your beneficiaries, the will must pass through the court process known as probate. During probate, the court oversees the will’s administration, ensuring your assets are distributed according to your wishes, with automatic supervision to handle any disputes. 

Like most court proceedings, probate can be time-consuming, costly, and open to the public. Moreover, during probate, there’s also the chance that one of your family members might contest your will, especially if you have disinherited someone or plan to leave significantly more money to one relative than the others. Even if those contests don’t succeed, such court fights will only increase the time, expense, and strife your family has to endure. 

Bottom line: If your estate plan consists of a will alone, you are guaranteeing your family will have to go to court if you become incapacitated or when you die. Fortunately, it’s easy to ensure your loved ones can avoid probate using different types of trusts, so meet with us, your Personal Family Lawyer® to spare your family this unnecessary ordeal.

 2. Pass on certain types of assets: Since a will only covers assets solely owned in your name, there are several types of assets that your will has no effect on, including the following:

  • Assets with a right of survivorship: Property held in joint tenancy, tenancy by the entirety, and community property with the right of survivorship, bypass your will. These types of assets automatically pass to the surviving co-owner(s) when you die.
  • Assets with a designated beneficiary: When you die, assets with a designated beneficiary pass directly to the individual, organization, or institution you designated as beneficiary, without the need for any additional planning. Common assets with beneficiary designations include retirement accounts, IRAs, 401(k)s, and pensions; life insurance or annuity proceeds; payable-on-death bank accounts; and transfer-on-death property, such as bonds, stocks, vehicles, and real estate. 
  • Assets held in a trust: Assets held by a trust automatically pass to the named beneficiary upon your death or incapacity, so these assets cannot be passed in your will. This includes assets held by both revocable living trusts and irrevocable trusts.

3. Pass ownership of a pet and money for its care: Because animals are considered personal property under the law, you cannot name a pet as a beneficiary in your will. If you do, whatever money you leave it would go to your residuary beneficiary, who would have no obligation to care for your pet.

It’s also not a good idea to use your will to leave your pet and money for its care to a future caregiver. That’s because the person you name as beneficiary would have no legal obligation to use the funds to care for your pet. In fact, this person could legally keep all of the money and drop off your pet at a shelter.

The best way to ensure your pet gets the care it deserves following your death is by creating a pet trust. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we will help you set up, fund, and maintain such a trust, so your furry family member will be properly cared for when you’re gone.

4. Leave funds for the care of a person with special needs: There are a number of unique considerations that must be taken into account when planning for the care of an individual with special needs. In fact, you can easily disqualify someone with special needs for much-needed government benefits if you don’t use the proper planning strategies. For this reason, a will should never be used to pass on money for the care of a person with special needs.

If you want to provide for the care of your child or another loved one with special needs, you must create a special needs trust. However, such trusts are complicated, and the laws governing them can vary greatly between states.

Given such complexities, you should always work with an experienced estate planning lawyer like us to create a special needs trust. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can make certain that upon your death, the individual would have the financial means they need to live a full life, without jeopardizing their access to government benefits.

5. Reduce estate taxes: If your family has significant wealth, you may wish to use estate planning to reduce your estate tax liability. However a will is useless for this purpose. To reduce or postpone your estate taxes, you will need to set up special types of trusts. If you are looking to reduce your estate tax liability, consult with us, your Personal Family Lawyer® to discuss your options.

6. Protect you from incapacity: Because a will only goes into effect when you die, it offers no protection if you become incapacitated and are no longer able to make decisions about your financial, legal, and healthcare needs. If you do become incapacitated, your family will have to petition the court to appoint a guardian to handle your affairs, which can be costly, time-consuming, and traumatic for your loved ones.

And there’s always the possibility that the court could appoint a relative as a guardian that you’d never want making such critical decisions on your behalf. Or the court might select a professional guardian, putting a total stranger in control of your life, which leaves you open to potential fraud and abuse by crooked guardians.

However, using a trust, you can include provisions that appoint someone of your choosing—not the court’s—to handle your assets if you are unable to do so. When combined with a well-prepared medical power of attorney and living will, a trust can keep your family out of court and out of conflict in the event of your incapacity, while ensuring your wishes regarding your medical treatment and end-of-life care are carried out exactly as you intended.

Get Professional Support With Your Estate Planning
Although creating a will may seem fairly simple, you should always consult with an experienced estate planning lawyer like us to ensure the document is properly created, executed, and maintained. And as we’ve seen here, there are many scenarios in which a will won’t be the right estate planning solution, nor would a will keep your family and assets out of court.

Meet with us at Legacy Law® for a Family Wealth Planning Session, which is the first step in our Life & Legacy Planning process. During this process, we’ll walk you through an analysis of your assets, what’s most important to you, and what will happen to your loved ones when you die or if you become incapacitated. From there, we’ll work together to put in place the right combination of estate planning solutions to fit with your asset profile, family dynamics, budget, as well as your overall goals and desires. 

As a Personal Family Lawyer® firm, we see estate planning as far more than simply planning for your death and passing on your “estate” and assets to your loved ones—it’s about planning for a life you love and a legacy worth leaving by the choices you make today—and this is why we call our services Life & Legacy Planning. Contact us today to schedule your visit to ensure that your loved ones will be protected and provided for no matter what happens to you.

This article is a service of Bethany Gilson Casey, Personal Family Lawyer®. We do not just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That's why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.

Speak With an Attorney

Schedule

Schedule Now

Client Success Stories

Bethany was amazing very helpful and kind. Made me feel very comfortable in a rough situation. Made sure I got what I wanted set up and took care of me and my family. Awesome job. I recommend her 100%.
Cari Covolo
December 22, 2021.
Bethany was professional, very knowledgeable, personable, and easy to work with. She made the daunting task of setting up a will easy and seamless.
Amanda Larson
October 21, 2021.
Bethany was great! She explained the details of probate and how it works in detail. Our purpose was to protect our children in the untimely event of both of us passing at the same time. The estate planning put our minds at ease. She encourages us to follow up with her periodically and make sure everything is still in order. This impressed us, she cares.
Dale Arey
October 13, 2021.
Bethany was great to work with! We highly recommend Legacy Law. Bethany was always well prepared and made things feel simple and easy to understand. She made a process that can feel overwhelming feel simple and manageable to do. She is very organized, professional and caring. She did an excellent job in preparing all the estate documents and helping us create a living trust!
Carey Larson
October 8, 2021.
Bethany was really helpful in getting our trust set in place; she answered all our questions thoroughly and we have peace of mind that our estate and affairs are in order. Highly recommend!
Paul Alvey
September 6, 2021.
I was pretty nervous/unsure about needing a will/ trust and decided to explore my options. I found an introductory video on-line from Legacy Law. From there I set up a meeting with Bethany and went in with a boatload of questions. My questions were answered patiently and with great expertise. I never felt pressured and came out feeling reassured and comfortable with my choices/decisions. This was all done professionally and in a very timely manner. To this day, if I have a question all I have to do is give Bethany or Brynn a call. It is without hesitation that I recommend Legacy Law and their services.
Patsy Christensen
August 31, 2021.
Thank you LegacyLaw Estate planning was a breeze with them .
Deborah Doak
August 21, 2021.
Bethany was great! Very professional and personal. She was always able and willing to answer our questions and come up with the best solution for our needs. I highly recommend her for estate planning and to navigate all the legal intricacies related to that.
Jeff Wilson
August 20, 2021.
Bethany was very professional, reasonably priced and very thorough when working with us on our trust. We highly recommend her for very individualized planning and attention to detail.
Robin Schamber
August 9, 2021.
Bethany was very professional and easy to work with. She answered all my questions and helped me put together a good living trust that I feel comfortable with. I would highly recommend her to anyone who is thinking about estate planning.
Steve Boyd
August 3, 2021.
Legacy Law LLC

2620 Commercial Way, Ste. 160
Rock Springs WY 82901

Get Directions
Integrity Marketing Solutions - Estate Planning Marketing
Powered by
crosschevron-down