A last will and testament is the foundation of every comprehensive estate plan. Sometimes referred to as just a “will,” this document can address a number of elements that will ultimately influence the probate proceedings.
Put another way, if you’re overwhelmed at the thought of making arrangements and you have no idea where to begin, start with drafting a will. Depending on the contents of your estate and the complexities of your family dynamic, you may eventually need to make additional arrangements. At the very least, however, having a will can relieve loved ones of a considerable burden in the event of your passing.
Let’s take a look at the most important elements you should address in your will, when applicable:
1. The Personal Representative of Your Estate
The personal representative is responsible for carrying out the deceased’s wishes. Also called the executor, this party guides the estate through the probate proceedings.
Spouses, adult children, and adult siblings commonly take on this role. You can also name a professional, like an estate planning attorney, to serve as your personal representative.
It’s wise to include a backup party, as well, in case the original person you choose is unwilling or unable to handle the duties of executor once the time comes.
2. The Beneficiaries of Your Property
It’s common to use a will to distribute assets to loved ones. Keep in mind, however, that property that passes through a will becomes public record because it must go through probate.
If you want to maintain your family’s privacy when it comes to certain assets, it may be advisable to set up one or more trusts instead of bequeathing those through your will. A knowledgeable attorney will be happy to evaluate your situation and then explain the pros and cons of this approach.
3. The Guardian Who Will Care for Your Minor Children
If you have any children who are under 18 and something happens to both you and their other parent, who will step in and care for them? While this is an eventuality that will hopefully never happen, it’s important to address in your will so you can have total peace of mind. Should you fail to name a guardian and disaster strikes, the court will pick someone, and there’s unfortunately no guarantee that they will choose the same person you would have.
It’s also worth noting that you can name a conservator in your will. This party is responsible for managing the assets you leave to your minor children until they reach adulthood. Generally speaking, the guardian is usually the conservator for the sake of convenience.
Speak with a Michigan Estate Planning Attorney
For help drafting your will with terms that are legally enforceable, turn to Smith & Johnson. We have been helping clients make arrangements that will protect their loved ones in all eventualities since 1965. To schedule a free initial consultation with one of our Michigan estate planning lawyers, call 231-946-0700 or fill out our Contact Form.