If you are someone who always likes to be a little different, then your next call should be to an estate planning attorney to have a will created. This would set you apart from most Americans today!
Being a non-conformist may not be the first reason to have a will. However, if that gets you started, it’s a worthwhile thought. On a more serious note, you need a will to accomplish a number of important tasks. One is to name a guardian, if your children are still minors. Another is to clarify and legally state your intentions about distributing your assets after you pass.
Dough Roller’s recent article, “The Truth About Why You Need a Last Will and Testament,” explains that simply writing up a will isn’t your only worry. You also need other estate planning documents in place.
A will details your wishes for your assets and for the care of your children. There are titled assets that will pass outside of the will, like your checking account with a “payable-on-death” beneficiary specified. If your home is owned in joint tenancy with the right of survivorship, it passes to the remaining owner(s) outside of the will. Similarly, your life insurance policy has its own beneficiaries and is not governed by your will. You should name beneficiaries on your bank accounts, CDs, and 401(k)s, so they will pass outside of the will.
Some people don’t create an estate plan because they think attorneys are too expensive. There are a few do-it-yourself solutions that you should be beware of. For example, what about a DIY power of attorney document appointing two individuals who are each able to act independently, if the other is unavailable to act? One online document didn’t support this, as one person was required to be specified as primary POA and the other as the contingent, if the primary withdraws. Another online service required that the power of attorney document specify “AND/OR.” In a DIY form, you need to know how to specify contingent beneficiaries. There’s also a big risk of editing an old estate planning document because laws change.
Pennsylvania made some significant changes to its requirements for Power of Attorney documents a few years ago. If you purchased a valid document from an online legal services website in 2010 and edited it last month, you’d be missing any changes because you must buy a new copy from the website. In fact, the edited document, based on the 2010 original, wouldn’t comply with Pennsylvania’s 2014 requirements.
There are attorneys who say they love online legal services because the problems lead people to need in-person meetings with area estate planning attorneys. Remember that laws change, lives change, and estate documents need to be kept up to date in order to be valid and to reflect your wishes.
Reference: Dough Roller (July 29, 2017) “The Truth About Why You Need a Last Will and Testament”