Wills – the Good and the Bad
A will is a blueprint for distributing and managing your assets when you die.
There are many benefits to having a will, but one major downside is that if you don’t name an executor then there’s no guarantee your wishes won’t go unfulfilled.
When a loved one passes away, their assets and debts become the responsibility of whoever has legal standing. This means that if someone without any heirs wants something from your family member’s estate (say by taking it or selling), there isn’t anything you can do unless you want to go through years worth court battles with no guarantee whatsoever on what might happen next!
Howard Hughes, the billionaire playboy with a net worth at his death of $2 billion (about 9.4 billion today), died intestate in 1976 without having executed a will to distribute those assets upon his demise; rather he left them as part and parcel of an estate that was valued for probating purposes at about twice what it had been on its day-of-death value. The settlement took place in Texas’s state courts after four years when 22 cousins, who were determined by bloodline descent from Howard himself, were deemed entitled under law (1983) to share equally one quarter each ($500 million apiece).
Simply put, wills are blueprints for distributing property and financial assets among heirs or beneficiaries following your death – but they’re not mandatory!
The process of finalizing any estate plan is not easy, but it’s important. If you don’t prepare your or your family member’s wishes properly beforehand there can be complications down the line that could affect those wishes negatively in ways you never imagined!
Where should you keep your Will?
We have all seen movies that include a missing will. Those tales can be funny and sometimes lead to murder. Putting those scenarios aside, where would you look for a will? Older folks sometimes believe they need to hide important papers. Maybe your dad is an inventive guy and found a clever “hidey-hole” somewhere in the house or garage.
You and your family would know best where to look if you believe there is a will. If you are unable to find the will, these are some ideas to investigate:
- Safe deposit boxes
- County courthouses, some states allow filing a will
- Attorneys the deceased used; past and present
- Relatives and close friends of the deceased
- Storage units
- Search personal items: clothing, shoes, purses, any containers such as jewelry boxes, photo albums, picture frames, undersides of furniture
Copies and drafts of Wills
If you find a copy, but not the original, lots of questions arise. The first question is whether or not the original has been destroyed by someone else? If so, then this should be made known to whoever would have had access to it and they will need some sort of proof before proceeding with making any decisions based on that information.
Another important thing worth noting about copies in general is if there are multiple versions around that vary in content, such as having deletions or pages missing, then these also help shed light on what might have happened between those who were trying to keep their secrets hidden from an outside world. These changes could lead one person astray and at least two people hurt for life because each version may contain different revelations into how somebody’s life story played out.
The absence of a will can have emotional and financial consequences. When someone dies without leaving one, they are called intestate. Each state has its own set of laws that determine which relatives get what property and how much share each family member gets to inherit upon their death.
If this is different from the deceased’s wishes, states might not recognize certain gifts or wills made by individuals before their passing as being legally binding. Under Intestacy Laws in most U.S.-based jurisdictions, whoever inherits the estate becomes executor. For example, the current spouse would be able to distribute the deceased’s properties as they see fit.
It’s costly too because attorneys are needed to oversee this process that could’ve been avoided had there simply been an estate plan put into place before passing away.
5 Things You Shouldn’t Include in Your Will
- Funeral Plans
- Your “Digital Estate”
- Jointly Held Property*
- Life Insurance and Retirement Funds**
- Illegal Gifts and Requests
- *Deeds that transfer an asset to another person upon your death (transfer on death deed).
- *Joint ownership can be used as follows: “Property held in joint tenancy, tenancy by the entirety or community property with right of survivorship automatically passes to the survivor when one of the original owners dies. Real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, and investments can all pass this way. No probate is necessary to transfer ownership of the property.”
- **Beneficiaries listed on things like life insurance, pension funds, or annuities, or structured settlements. Each of these situations is governed by arrangements made at purchase when created or when legally awarded.
Yes, the prospect of creating wills can be daunting, but Aging Takes Planning is here for you! Just go to our Resources page to see what we can help you with!