Just 1 in 5 millennials have a will.
Even some famous people, like Aretha Franklin, passed away without a will. Your estate may not be worth the $80 million that the Queen of Soul’s was. But that is no excuse, if you own any property or have any money to your name, you can get started drafting a will.
So now that that is settled, you may be asking, do I need a lawyer for a will? Many people will tell you that if don’t have a large or complicated estate then you don’t need a lawyer.
This advice isn’t totally correct, here’s when you need a lawyer to help you write a will.
You Need an Estate Plan
Most people assume you need a will to distribute your assets when you pass away. What you really need is an estate plan. What’s the difference?
An estate plan is an entire set of legal documents that take care of everything in preparation for your death or disability. A will is just one of these documents in the plan.
Without an attorney, you’ll miss other important documents that will make your loved one’s lives easier. This could include items like a healthcare power of attorney, or financial power of attorney, or disposition of final remains.
You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
To build on our last point, you don’t know what you are missing when you don’t know your options. This is bigger than creating an estate plan.
For example, each state creates their own laws for inheritance and probate. First, you’ll need to make sure that you follow all of the laws for your state. Then you need to look into the laws of all states where you have assets.
If you don’t follow the law to the letter, your will could end up unenforceable. If this happens your estate will follow intestacy laws, which may or may not align with your wishes.
There Are Unknown Complicating Factors
There are certain circumstances in life that will complicate things. The more complicated your life, the more complicated your estate plan, the more you need a lawyer to guide you.
Have you married multiple times? If so, you’ll need to address this and if there are any previous agreements with your ex-spouses.
Own a Business
If you own a business then you need to discuss with a lawyer what happens to that. You need to create a plan for what happens and address any possible claims your family could have on the business.
Caring for Family
If you currently care for an incapacitated or disabled family member, then creating a will may not be enough. You’ll want to ensure their care continues beyond your passing. A lawyer can advise you on a better way to do this such as a trust.
If you have minor children, you’ll need to create a section of the will that outlines their care. We know this is a tough thing to think about, but if something happens, who will care for your children?
How will you ensure the money you leave for them will go towards their care?
So you’re tempted to do a will yourself because you think hiring a lawyer is too expensive? But this is only looking at the short term.
What a lawyer can tell you is how your decisions now will cost you in the future. If you don’t prepare your will correctly, you could end up costing your heirs expensive fees in estate taxes.
Federal Estate Tax
The federal estate tax seems like a high threshold at $5.49 million. But 2 in every 1,000 have to face paying it. It ends up being about 1/6th of their total estate.
The good news is that there are loopholes to avoid this tax. An attorney can help you navigate these loopholes.
State Estate and Inheritance Taxes
You will need to talk with a lawyer if your state has an estate or inheritance tax. Did you know there is a difference between these two types of taxes?
Six states impose an inheritance tax. This is a tax imposed on the person inheriting.
While fifteen states impose an estate tax. This is a tax imposed on the estate no matter who the intended heir is.
The law is a changing and evolving thing. So if you prepare your will in accordance with the law today, it may not comply with the law in effect when you pass away.
When you work with a skilled and knowledgeable firm they can give you ongoing support. They can also check your documents for any errors that might render your will invalid.
Changing Life Circumstances
You can also reach out and consult with them as your life changes. Let’s say you get married, or have children, or buy a home. These are all life events that will be a trigger to update your will.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Will? The Answer Is Yes.
Hopefully, you should no longer be asking, “do I need a lawyer for a will?” The answer is yes, you do. Sure, you can try to use those online premade forms and templates.
But then you run the risk of not having your estate distributed the way you intend and wish. You risk having your will deemed invalid.
You risk your heirs paying heavy estate taxes. You risk missing out on completing important documents.
So let’s help you prepare your will by taking the first step, finding a knowledgeable and skilled estate attorney. Look for a lawyer to help you write your will today.