Do I need a will?
If you have children you should have a Will so that a Guardian and Trustee of your choice can be appointed until they are adults. If you own any assets in your name only your estate will go to
probate. A Will is essential to simplify and shorten the probate process and save the unnecessary complicated procedure and expenses. If you have specific gifts of personal belongings you wish to make, only a Will is binding to carry out your wishes. If your estate is substantial in value, you may need trust provisions to shelter portions of your estate from taxation.
How do you make a Will?
A Will must be in writing. Rhode Island law dictates the statutory requirements for creating a valid Will that will be recognized in its Courts. Not only is the drafting of the Will important so that your wishes are followed and no questions arise as to their interpretation later, but the execution of the Will should be carried out with specific formality so that the Will is "self-proving". We can give you the consultation and legal service you need to assure that your Will is proper, binding and responsive to your particular desires. Depending on your needs and desires, we may also suggest incorporating one or more trusts into your estate plan.
What if there is no Will?
If a Will is defective and cannot be recognized, it is the same as if the person died without a Will. If a Will is not recognized, or if a person did not make a Will, his or her property and possessions may be distributed by the laws of "intestate succession". These are state laws that direct which next of kin inherit a person's property. One cannot depart from these rules prior to distribution even if the spouse, children or relatives know the decedent wished otherwise. And these rules may not adequately provide for a surviving family. That is why a Will is so important.
Is making a Will complicated?
No. We arrange an initial meeting in which you can discuss your concerns. We ask you to describe your assets (real estate, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, life insurance policies, etc.) and whether you own them by yourself or with another person. Then we will discuss your wishes with regard to that property. Have in mind who you choose to be the Executor of your Will, the Trustee (if we feel that a trust is necessary) and a Guardian for your minor children if you have any. Decide on a first choice and a second choice in case the first cannot serve. Then we will do the rest.
In most instances the appointment takes no more than one (1) hour. Then, within two (2) weeks you return to our office to sign your Wills. The originals are held by either you or us, in safe keeping, as you direct. That's all there is to it.
Can I avoid a Will by using joint accounts?
Probate may be avoided if all of your assets are in joint names. However, we do not suggest this as a method of estate planning. Other problems arise including:
- Probate will not be avoided if one or more accounts remain in your
sole name even though all others are in joint names.
- Probate will be required when the second "joint" owner passes away.
- The Joint Owner can deplete the account without your knowledge.
- The creditors of the joint owner can reach the account for the debts
of the joint owner.
- If the joint owner is not a spouse, the account may be divided in a
divorce of the joint owner.
- Certain tax benefits may be lost by using joint accounts
Do I need a Trust?
If you have children under the age of 18, you will need to have a Trust or provide Trust provisions in your Will. We can describe various Trusts that are available as Estate Planning tools when we meet with you. Under Rhode Island law a person is a minor until they are 18 years of age. As such, they can not contract and otherwise legally act on their own without the consent of a parent, trustee or court appointed guardian. Further, it may be your desire that upon your death your children who are over 18 years of age not have independent use of your assets without the consent of your responsible Trustee. Rather, you may want your assets held in trust until your child or children reach the age of 21, 25, 30, etc. In such instances, your children over 18 years of age would need the consent of your Trustee in order to invade the trust assets until they reach the age you have instructed for termination of the trust.
What is a Living Trust?
A Living Trust is a legal document that, just like a Will, contains your instructions for what you want to happen to your assets when you die. But unlike a Will, a Living (revocable) Trust avoids probate at death, can control all of your assets, and prevents the Probate Court from controlling your assets if you become incapacitated.
Am I set for life?
Often, a simple Will provides adequately for many years and in many cases may be all a person ever needs. If your life circumstances change substantially (i.e.: marriage, children, dramatic change in the value of your assets, divorce) you should have your Will reviewed.
Do not change or try to revoke your Will yourself. These actions should be taken in accordance with recognized procedures so that they cannot be challenged later. If you do wish to change your Will, we may prepare what is called a "codicil" for you containing the new terms of your estate plan.
When should I review my Will?
A Will is never final until it takes effect upon one's death. Review your Will on any of these occasions:
- Change in residence
- Marriage, separation or divorce
- Birth/adoption of a child
- Acquisition of property in another state
- Increase/reduction in value of securities
- Children attaining age of maturity
- Marriage of a child
- Birth of a grandchild
- Sale of a business
- Any other changes in your financial condition.
What else might I need?
Estate planning is more than just preparing a Will or a Trust. We will also discuss with you things that you can do today with your estate to insure than the transfer of assets is done efficiently. We may also discuss the relationship between Medicare rules and estate planning.
People sometimes feel it is important to them and their families to express their wishes regarding old age or life-threatening illness. They may choose to:
- designate an agent to make health care decisions for them if they
- decide what types of artificial life support they may wish to forego.
- appoint an attorney-in-fact to sign papers and manage their business
or personal affairs if they are not able to.
If you feel this is something you wish to discuss, come in and talk to us. We can provide for such eventualities in the form of proper and binding documentation.
What does it cost?
It's not expensive. Talk to us, once we understand your circumstances we'll be happy to discuss the costs up front. In most instances, the cost ranges from $150 to $500. The real question is what is the cost if you don't have an estate plan.
Let Mr. Hirsch assist you in the business affairs of your estate. Chances are it will be something you do only once, maybe twice, and the time, money and effort it saves should be invaluable.