When someone cuts corners on estate planning and goes for the simple and easy Last Will, the results could be that they will cause their loved ones a great deal of grief when it comes time to settle their estate. There is no such thing as a simple and easy Last Will. In fact, most “simple and easy” Last Wills are nearly worthless when it comes to actually settling the deceased’s estate. It reminds me of the old adage: “Easy now, hard later.”
If you write a Last Will and just state that you want your spouse to receive everything if she or he survives you, or that you want your children to receive all of your assets, splitting them equally, you will probably have some problems. The fact is that in most cases this is what would happen, even if you did not leave a Last Will. That’s because most states have statutes that provide that your property is divided in this manner.
Whether you distribute your assets through a Last Will or choose not to create one, both of those options require an expensive, time-consuming probate. As mentioned above, the law provides that certain people should inherit the deceased’s estate by right, if there is no Last Will. This usually includes the spouse and any children. If there is no spouse or children, the right to inherit will then pass to parents, if living, and if not them to siblings, cousins, etc. You do not need a Last Will to accomplish this, but keep in mind that probate can be expensive, and without a Last Will to provide clear instructions, there could be some major problems within your family.
The simple Last Will also allows you to name a guardian for minor children, which is very important. Without naming a guardian for your children, the court will decide who will care for your children until they are grown.
Remember though, a simple Last Will does not keep your estate out of probate. No Last Will can keep your estate out of probate if you have assets titled in your individual name. The only way to do this is if you have an estate plan that includes a trust. In addition to this, your assets must be funded to that trust. A Last Will also does nothing to protect the assets that you leave your children.
Yes, you can save some money now with an estate plan that only consists of a Last Will, but it is likely going to cost your estate quite a lot in the future. Last Wills do not cover some of the most important aspects of estate plans, and a simple Last Will does even less.
If you want to simplify things for your family and keep your estate out of probate, you will want a solid estate plan that includes a Living Trust.