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October 22, 2016

Seven Key Tips for Your Last Will and Testament

Greenville South Carolina probate law lawyer

Drafting a Last Will and Testament is not something most people look forward to in life. It requires contemplation on what will be done after you have left this earth. Nevertheless, it must be done to protect your assets and your loved ones.  If you pass on without a valid last will and testament (i.e. dying “intestate”) you are subjecting your assets (and the division of those assets) to the rigid state laws of intestacy. There is no wiggle room when an intestate estate is divided. This means a relative you may not be very fond of could wind up with a share of your estate.


You may be thinking, “Ok, I need a will. How do I go about drafting one?” Great question. Some people opt for purchasing a draft of will on the numerous cookie-cutter legal document web sites populating the internet. Unfortunately, utilizing this strategy may create headaches and pitfalls similar to not even drafting a will. For example, if you use a will template, you are confining yourself to the parameters in the template. This is needlessly restrictive since there are a variety of estate planning strategies you can implement to reduce costs and reduce stress on your loved ones. This is why speaking to an experienced Greenville estate planning attorney makes sense. Below are seven tips that an estate planning lawyer would likely advise you to consider during the drafting process of your last will and testament:


  1. Create Your Estate Outline


Before you put pen to paper on your will, you need to take a step back and draw up a list of your assets and liabilities. This includes your home (and accompanying mortgage), checking accounts, savings accounts, stocks, bonds, vehicles, life insurance, pension funds, credit card debt, student loan debt, and so forth. Such an outline is essential because you do not want to draft a will and completely neglect a valuable asset such as who receives your Apple stock or pension fund.


  1. Do Not Neglect Digital Assets


A major issue in estate planning is how to properly categorize and distribute “digital” assets. This includes your Amazon Prime account, Paypal account, iTunes library, and social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. Many people often neglect these assets when putting together their estate plan only to have a loved one discover the issue when it was too late. Do not let this happen to you. Be sure to include a provision in your will which details the login credentials to your myriad online accounts and states who will receive these digital assets.


  1. Determine Who You Want As An Executor


If you pass on leaving behind a last will and testament, it is incumbent upon you to name an executor (also known as an administrator or executrix) to manage the distribution of your estate assets and pay any taxes, debts, and so forth. Some people mistakenly believe that if they draft a will, the court handles everything. Not true.


Be sure to invest some time into selecting your executor. They need to be someone you trust and someone you believe is capable of handling the responsibility.  You also need to be sure they are open to taking on that role, so discuss the executor role with them. You want to avoid the situation where an executor refuses the role necessitating the court to appoint a third party (i.e. someone you did not select).


  1. Protect Your Children


This section applies if you have minor children. You need to include a provision concerning who will raise them if you and your spouse both pass away. It is a depressing thought, but your estate plan needs to consider an array of “worst case scenarios” to ensure your loved ones are taken care of no matter what occurs.


In regards to your minor children, you will need to include a guardianship provision in your will. Like an executor, a guardian is specifically tasked with providing proper care to your children and to manage their inheritance until they reach adulthood. Be sure to name at least two backup guardians in case your first choice passes away, suddenly becomes incapacitated, or decides to decline the job after a few years.


  1. Who Gets What


Your will should include directives on how you want your estate distributed to your beneficiaries. These directives do not have to be directly included in your will. You have the option of drafting a list of specific bequests known as a “personal property memorandum” and simply referring to this document in your will. Obviously, if you choose this option, you need to ensure the memorandum is always attached with your will.


  1. You Can Make Changes, But Do It Properly


It is perfectly fine to amend a last will and testament, but it needs to be done properly to be valid. You should not simply make a major change on a whim by yourself. In fact, making a change with no one to acknowledge the amendment that could invalidate your entire last will and testament with a court and expose your will to being challenged by a relative.


  1. Contact an Experienced Greenville Estate Planning Attorney


As mentioned, drafting a thoroughly detailed and legally valid last will and testament requires time, experience, and an understanding of South Carolina probate law. Not only do you need to consider your assets and liabilities, but there are state and federal taxes to consider, creditor notices to file, and working with a court to ensure the proper paperwork is submitted and validated. This is why hiring an experienced Greenville, South Carolina estate planning lawyer is strongly recommended. The money you invest in experienced guidance is money you will save in avoiding a potential legal dispute after you pass on.


Experience with estate planning matters is absolutely essential when you hire a lawyer to help you draft your plan. That is why you should contact the Anderson Law Firm for your estate planning and probate needs. Our dedicated South Carolina probate law firm has been rated as Legal Elite of the Upstate since 2013 and is highly skilled in estate planning, asset protection, and probate law. Contact our firm today.