When most people think of estate planning documents, the first thing that usually comes to mind is a Will, or Last Will and Testament. However, like many estate planning components, Wills don’t always do exactly what people think they’ll do. In Encino, Wills are used to direct where all solely owned proceeds should be distributed after death – that’s about it.
Here are 3 of the most common misconceptions about Last Wills in Encino:
Provide Funeral Instructions – A Last Will and Testament is not the best place to leave funeral instructions. While you can put the instructions in the Will, it’s not a guarantee that your Last Will and Testament will be examined in the days shortly following your death. Instead, an estate planning document called the Disposition of Remains is the best place to leave your funeral instructions, as it allows you to name who you’d like to take charge of your remains once you’ve passed and what procedures you’d like them to follow for your funeral.
Distribute ALL Assets
As noted above, a Last Will and Testament only deals with the distribution of solely owned assets and property. Anything that is held jointly, such as a bank account or a house, or anything that has a beneficiary, such as a life insurance policy or retirement account, will pass to the other joint owners or the beneficiaries without being impacted by the Will. So, if your Last Will and Testament states that your assets are to be split evenly between your children when you die, but you have a joint back account with just one of your children, be aware that there is no legal duty for that child to share the assets held in that bank account with their siblings.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that having a Last Will and Testament can help you avoid probate. This is wholly untrue. A Will needs to be entered into probate, where it will instruct the probate judge how you wanted your solely owned assets to be distributed. The advantage of a Last Will and Testament in probate proceedings comes into effect if you plan on distributing assets differently than the laws of intestacy. For example, if you’re planning on disinheriting a family member, or leaving assets to a family member who would not be in line according to the laws of intestacy, you would want to include that information in your Last Will and Testament.
This is just a small look at what a Last Will and Testament can and cannot do for you. If you’re interested in creating a Last Will and Testament as part of your estate plan, or if you’d like to have your existing Will and estate plan reviewed by our Encino estate planning lawyers, please call the Law Offices of Gerald L. Kane at (818) 905-6088 to set up an appointment with our firm.