Last Will and Testament

July 31, 2018

One of the most important documents you can have is your last will and testament.   Sadly, it is a document that a lot of people either do not have or have failed or neglected to update.  We all work hard to try to acquire “stuff” throughout our lives, never knowing when the end will come or how it will happen.  When our time is up our estate (our worldly possessions) will have to be liquidated or passed along, but who will get what?

Far too often assets end up in the hands of people we never intended to have them, taxes, legal and probate fees or remaining in the coffers of big insurance companies.  And all because of poor financial planning on our part while we were able to ensure the proper transfer of our stuff to the people we intended to get it.  You should sit down with your lawyer to draft a last will and testament and make sure that relevant family members have a copy of it and any codicils to it.  A will used to refer to real property while testament referred to personal property, chattels.  Hence the term “Will and Testament” to denote how both types of property are to be disposed or distributed upon death.

Imagine if you might that you had a life insurance policy that you had paid into for your entire life, after you die who should get the proceeds?  Who is your beneficiary and how do they get the inheritance?  The answer isn’t as simple as you might expect, the insurance company doesn’t hire detectives to check into welfare.  They have no idea that you died, the beneficiary must know the insurance is in place, what company it is with, the policy number and the fact they are the beneficiary, then they must provide the insurance company with your death certificate to claim the proceeds.

If your heirs are unaware of your assets they will not, easily, be able to claim them.  Should you die intestate (without a will) an application will need to be made to appoint a trustee and to probate your estate.  Some of the money you have left will need to be paid to cover the costs of these procedures.  That will reduce the amount left for your heirs.  Some of the money you leave behind may be used to pay off the creditors you owed money to before you died, unless you take the steps to creditor proof that money, or those assets.  A lawyer or financial planner or a combination of both will be able to advise you on how to set things up before you die to ensure that as much of your estate as possible goes to the people you would like it to go to.