Estate Planning: “It’s Never Too Early, But It May Be Too Late To Write A Will”
“Any person 18 or more years of age who is of sound mind may make a will.” (Minn. Stat. 524.2-501).
Most people don’t think about their option to make a Will as they are graduating from High School (!) because we all think we have a long life ahead of us and many years to plan. But, people who go into the military, or people who take civil service positions, for example, often have to think about a Will just as their adult lives are beginning. In any case, all young adults should seriously consider writing a Will, and young families should be strongly encouraged.
Wills are not just for wealthy people. Wills are for ordinary people as well, even if you think you “don’t own anything of value to pass on.” Wills are also instruments for ensuring the financial and physical care of your children and anyone else for whom you are responsible and would be concerned about if you passed away (a special needs individual, for example). Even if you leave funds to care for your loved ones, if they aren’t yet adults, they will need to have those funds cared for and distributed by someone else for their benefit.
A Will can act as an instrument to name a Guardian for your children. It can also act as an instrument to create a Trust with whatever assets you have and name the person who will act as Trustee for your children according to your instructions. Similarly, if you are caring for someone with special needs, a Will can arrange for and direct the care of that individual.
If you don’t have a Will or legal documents that name a Guardian or create a Trust for the care of your loved ones that count on you, the Court will do it for you. But, this process takes time and, in the absence of instructions in your Will, the Court must make those decisions based on what it perceives is best for your dependents. Don’t get me wrong, the Court will make a great effort to carefully examine the circumstances and find out the options. But, the fact remains that you don’t get to decide, someone else does. This process can put quite a strain on your family.
So the next question is: “How often should I revise my Will?”
Over the course of your lifetime (may it be long and rewarding), a good rule of thumb is that whenever your circumstances significantly change (for example, you’ve retired, you’ve remarried or divorced, your partner is deceased, to name just a few), you ought to have a qualified estate planner take a look and see if your current Will still addresses your needs adequately. Or, you can decide every decade deserves a fresh look. In any case, get the process started and remember that thoughtful planning may not address all of what happens in your life, but more often than not, it will address what is most important to you.This blog is written by Bridget-Michaele Reischl, Attorney DECORO LAW OFFICE, PLLC www.decorolaw.com