A will is often the most important document included in someone’s estate plan. Some people only ever put together a will and don’t add any supplemental documents to their estate plan. Other people use a will as the foundation of their plan and add numerous other legal documents, including trusts, powers of attorney and advance directives to their broader efforts.
There’s a reason that some people default to only creating a will, and it is because one single document is capable of achieving numerous estate planning objectives. These are some of the most common uses of a will in an estate plan.
To name a guardian for their dependents
When someone has minor children or a family member with special needs who depends on them for care, it may be necessary to name a guardian to take over their responsibilities if anything were to happen to them. Wills provide an opportunity to nominate a guardian and even an alternative candidate in case someone’s first choice is unavailable or unwilling to accept that authority when the time comes.
To choose specific beneficiaries and a remainderman
A will is often where someone discusses who from their inner circle will inherit assets from their estate. It is common for people to focus primarily on specific major assets, like businesses, real estate and vehicles. A will can also include a clause naming a remainderman, which is an individual who will receive all of the residual assets in the estate after the distribution of the specifically named property. Naming a remainderman can prevent fighting over whatever assets remain after the distribution of the biggest assets.
To eliminate someone’s inheritance claim
Sometimes, strained family relationships or a history of problematic behavior may lead to one person choosing to disinherit a family member who might otherwise receive quite a bit of property from their estate. It is not sufficient to simply eliminate someone as a beneficiary. People typically need to address the decision to disinherit someone who would expect to receive property explicitly in a will. By mentioning the choice to disinherit someone or leaving them a single, low-value asset, the testator can reduce the chance of someone else challenging their estate plan later.
Recognizing the common goals that people are able to achieve with a will can inspire someone to start formulating a broader estate plan that meets their needs. Seeking legal guidance can help you to achieve this end.