The distinction between a Will lawyer and a probate lawyer comes with timing. Namely, before and after death – while you are alive, you work with a Will lawyer to craft a Will, and then your family (if necessary) works with a probate attorney to carry out your wishes as specified in the Will, after your death.
Main Parts of a Will
Here are some of the main parts of a Will that you will review with your attorney. You should think about these elements before meeting with your Will lawyer, to save you both time (and to save you money).
You should state your number of children, including step-children and adopted children. You want to list the person who should be guardian of your minor children, if you have any. If your adult children are living outside of your home, be prepared to update the documents with all of their current contact information, including addresses.
Executor and Trustee
Designating the person or people you want to oversee the distribution of your assets is crucial. You also should list the powers you want this Executor and Trustee to have – such as the power to sell your house and your car. The more clearly the roles of Executor and Trustee are defined the document, the easier it will be for this person to represent you after you have passed.
In the definition of these roles, you can also clarify what obligations the Executor and Trustee have to the other beneficiaries. Must the Executor and Trustee provide a statement of accounting to the other beneficiaries within the first year? It might be a good idea. You also should consider discussing these responsibilities with the person you are choosing to designate in this role. If the role’s requirements are too much to ask, then you want to know that now, so that you can find someone better equipped to accept these responsibilities.
Disposition of Assets
Which beneficiaries should receive which of your assets? Are some of these assets held in trusts? Do certain bank accounts go to certain individuals? Is there an Underage Beneficiary Trust for any beneficiaries? A full accounting of your assets is required, as is a full inventory of your estate. There is nothing more frustrating than watching an ill-equipped Executor hunting around trying to locate mysterious and unclear assets after the decedent has passed. You need to leave clear records, so that the Executor knows precisely whom to contact, and what account numbers to reference. A life insurance policy may go to waste if nobody can access the institution holding that policy with the correct access information.
No Contest Provision
This “Will Contest Provision” is in place in case any person or institution (a business, for example) tries to oppose the probate or provisions of your Will. Hopefully nobody will oppose your Will. If they do, though, you want to make sure your Will is ironclad and carefully written, so that no potential claims could challenge the integrity or legality of the document.
Taxes and Debts
This part of your Will can state which debts may exist that need to be paid, and which of your assets can pay off these debts. The same part can cover how your assets can pay your taxes, as well as other expenses related to your funeral and your interment or cremation.
Have no fear: If you are working with a trusted Will legal advisor, they will help you through all the ins and outs of setting everything needed to put your mind at ease.