Before You Start With Willio
If you don’t have a will in place, state law will determine how your estate is distributed. These laws – called “intestacy laws” – have a set procedure for determining succession and inheritance, and vary depending on the state that you live in. Creating a will helps to simplify and streamline the probate process by clearly outlining your wishes, and gives you the power to decide what happens to your estate after you’re gone.
You’ll first be asked to enter information about you and your family. You’ll also be asked for your County and State. If you are married or have children, you’ll be asked for full, legal names, including middle names.
The next question you’ll want to ask yourself is, “What are my assets?” More importantly, do you have any assets that you would like to leave to specific people? You can choose to simply leave everything you own to one or multiple people OR you can choose to leave specific items to certain people. Either way, it’s a good idea to take an assessment of everything you own and determine how you want it divided. And remember, when leaving your assets you can only distribute property that you solely own – not property that is jointly owned.
If you have children under the age of 18 it’s a great idea to create a Trust, also known as a Minor Children Will. This protects your assets from Probate court and sets a specific plan for how and when your children will receive your assets. You’ll also have two other things to think about if you have minor children – Trustees and Guardians.
A Trustee is the person who will give your assets to your children at the ages you specify. They will handle the financial aspects of your Trust. For example, if you want your children to receive half of your assets at age 18 and the other half at age 25, the Trustee will handle that.
A Guardian (who can be the same person as your Trustee) will be the person who physically takes care of your children until they turn 18. They will use the assets from your Trust to care for them. Note that these can be two separate people – it’s not required to have the same person be the Trustee and Guardian.
Finally, you’ll choose someone to act as your Executor. An executor, also called a Personal Representative, will probably be a person, but in some cases can be a company. The Executor will be in charge of managing the assets of your Estate during the probate process, paying any creditors who are owed, and distributing the assets to your beneficiaries.
It’s a good idea to make sure that the people you name in your Will are willing to take on those responsibilities.
You’ll want to have backups in mind for each of those positions in case the person you choose is unwilling or unable to do it.
Being prepared with this information ensures you can confidently create a Will that protects your family and ultimately gives you peace of mind.
Until they reach those ages, a Trustee, who you select, will use the funds of the Trust to provide for your children’s medical care, education, and support. When your children reach the age that you have chosen, they will receive their share of the assets. For example, your children could receive half of your assets at age 18 and the other half at age 25.
If a child has special needs, your Trustee will have the option of holding the property in trust for the special needs child. However, Willio strongly suggests seeking the advice of a lawyer if you have a special needs child.
If you choose to leave everything to your spouse and your spouse survives you, then the Trust will not go into effect. It is important for your spouse to also have a Will in case you both pass away and still have minor children.
If you leave money to your pet guardian to care for your pets, you are essentially giving them a specified amount of money and asking that it be used for the care of your pets. You may also view this as compensating the person who is taking care of your pets. You should consider the amount of this gift and make sure it makes sense with your overall estate plan. Typically a gift to care for pets would not be a substantial amount of your overall estate. If you do not have any pets at the time of your death then this gift would not be made and the money would go to your estate.
It’s important to note that Willio isn’t a traditional law firm and so we can’t provide legal advice specific to your situation. The law is always a personal matter, and no general form, tool, or resource can address every circumstance. So if at any time you need legal advice for a specific question, we’d recommend you consult a licensed attorney in your area.
*Note: Willio does not currently support residents of Louisiana because of a set of estate laws unique to the state. Please reach out to us at email@example.com if you have additional questions.
Put simply, Willio is built for the vast majority of us. Designed and engineered to simplify; we’re constantly striving to bring clarity and transparency to even the most complicated estate topics. That said, life gets complex. There are some situations where it may be best to work with an attorney.
When you might want to talk to an attorney:
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General Will Questions
An Estate is all of an individual’s assets which is basically everything a person owns. Nearly every person on the planet has an Estate. So Estate Planning is creating a plan for how all of your assets will pass upon death. Estate planning is an ongoing process through which you take an honest look at your current situation and plan for the future. If you don’t take control of your estate plan, someone else will. If you died without an estate plan… default state rules will apply…whether or not they make good sense for your particular situation. The initial step in the estate planning process is to identify everything you own by determining:
Property can be owned or titled in different ways and that helps to determine how it passes to beneficiaries. Once you know what you own, then you can decide who you want to leave it to. Your estate plan does not need to be overly complicated, but it should be well thought out. It should be a plan based on your decisions and your goals. Estate planning allows you to control the outcome of your life’s efforts and protects your family in the event that something happens to you.
You can have multiple Executors serve at the same time and each of them would be referred to as Co-Executors. However, they will have to agree on all decisions and both will have to sign the necessary documents which could slow down the process.
The Trustee will use your property to provide for your children’s needs until they are old enough to receive the property outright. Typically, you should not name your spouse as trustee. The trust and trustee will only be needed if your spouse is also deceased. If you are not married to the child’s other parent then it could be the child’s other parent.
The Trustee you name should be someone that you trust to properly manage the assets and provide for your children as needed. It is a good idea to name backups in case your primary trustee is unable to be trustee for your children. You should consult with whomever you name to make sure they are willing to take on this responsibility.
All parents with minor children worry about what would happen to their children if both parents should die. If one parent dies or becomes incapacitated, then normally the surviving parent will retain sole custody of any children. If both parents die, then usually there must be a court action to appoint a legal guardian for the children.
The court will look first to the desires of the parents, preferably expressed in a Will. The court normally appoints the person named in the Will as guardian.
The guardian for your children can be the same person that you named as trustee but it does not have to be. You should name a guardian who is the best person to care for your children. You can name another individual or institution that is the best person (or company) to handle the money.
Some people name their parents or siblings as guardians. Some people include their sibling’s spouse as guardian if they want the spouse to serve as guardian if the sibling passes away.
Some people name their close friends, and in some cases they name close friends who are husband and wife. You can name one or two people to serve as guardians. If you name two people they should live together since you are choosing who the child would live with.
It is a good idea to name backups in case your primary guardian is unable to be guardian for your children. If you have a spouse, you and your spouse do not have to name the same people as guardians, though married couples often agree on who should be guardian for their kids.
Be sure to ask the person that you plan to name as guardian if they are willing to take custody of your children. Don’t risk putting someone in the awkward position of first learning that you have named them as guardian after you die. Even the most supportive and caring friend or relative may have good reasons for declining to take on the responsibility of caring for children.
You do not have to leave specific gifts. If you do not leave specific gifts everything will be left to whomever you named in the “Rest of My Assets” section. For example, if everything is going to your wife and then to your children, you do not need to leave each item that you own to a specific person unless you want someone other than your wife or your children to receive it. However, if you want a specific child to receive a specific item, you would leave it as a specific gift. You will have the opportunity to specify that the gift is only to be made in the event that your spouse is not living.
A person appointed as power of attorney is not necessarily an attorney. The person could just be a trusted family member, friend, or acquaintance. The power of attorney will have immediate and broad power over your finances so you should choose someone that you trust completely.
You can have multiple Agents serve together at the same time and each would be referred to as Co-Agents. However, they will have to agree on all decisions and both will have to sign any necessary documents.