Just about everyone recognizes the need to have at least a basic Last Will and Testament in place; however, you need more than just a simple Will. A simple Will can take care of distributing your estate assets when you are gone, but a comprehensive estate plan can accomplish that as well – and so much more. If you are new to estate planning though, how do you know whether a simple Will is sufficient for you and your needs or not? How do you decide what additional estate planning components should be included in your plan? The best way to determine what you need in your estate plan is to consult with an experienced Illinois estate planning attorney. In the meantime, however, it may be beneficial for you to learn more about your estate planning options and why you might need more than just a simple Will.
What a Simple Will Can, and Cannot, Do for You
A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that allows the Testator (the person who executes the document) make gifts of estate assets to be honored upon the Testator’s death. When you create your Will, you will have the ability to make specific and/or general gifts. An example of a specific gift might include gifting your Barbie doll collection to a favorite niece. A general gift might include gifting ten percent of your estate to your sister. Gifts made in a simple Will are transferred to the beneficiary at the end of the probate process.
There are a number of things a simple Will cannot do though. A simple Will cannot provide for staggered disbursements of assets to beneficiaries nor can it protect assets for a minor child until the child reaches the age of majority at which time the child can legally inherit from your estate. In addition, a simple Will does not provide any protection for your or your loved ones in the event of your incapacity. Finally, a simple Will cannot help your estate avoid probate nor can it so anything to reduce the tax burden your estate might incur when you die.
What Else Might You Need in Your Comprehensive Estate Plan?
In order to decide if you need more than just a simple Will in your estate plan, it helps to know what other components people frequently include in their comprehensive estate plans. Not all of these components will be needed in your estate plan and there may be some components that you do need that are not mentioned here; however, the following are some of the most common additions to a well-rounded estate plan:
- Incapacity plan – determines ahead of time who will make decisions for you in the event you become incapacitated and who will take over control of your assets.
- Probate avoidance – probating even a relatively small estate of modest value can take months to accomplish. As a general rule, the longer it takes to probate and estate, the more it will cost the estate in terms of fees and expense. Most importantly, however, is the fact that your beneficiaries will likely have to wait until the end of the probate process to receive their gifts. By including probate avoidance strategies in your estate plan your estate can save time and money as well as ensure that your loved ones receive the benefit of your gifts in a timely manner.
- Medicaid planning — you may not realize it now, but there is a good chance you will need to qualify for Medicaid one day to help defray the high cost of long-term care. To do that without putting your assets at risk you need to include Medicaid planning in a comprehensive estate plan early on in your life.
- Business succession planning – if you own a small business, you undoubtedly want to pass it on to the next generation or ensure that your loved ones receive the full value of your interest in the business if something happens to you. Business succession planning focus on accomplishing those goals.
If you have questions or concerns regarding the creation of a simple Will or a comprehensive estate plan, contact the experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.