Your Last Will and Testament
A will? Yeah, I gotta get one of those
Shrugging off estate planning is commonplace; creating a will triggers trepidation of “dental office proportions.” Predictably one’s will to write one’s will hits a wall.
Dying doesn’t become us. Consider the 21st-century obsession with immortality: in TV, film and lit, the never-die vampire is ubiquitous. Yet, till one turns to vampirism, let’s accept that death comes; it’s imperative to take stock now for the sake of our kids and other beneficiaries.
What IS a Will?
Last, but not least on the to-do list of Highly Procrastinating People (also known as “People”) is the Last Will and Testament (though, the will may be revoked or amended, in which case… it would not be the last Last Will and Testament).
A will spells out the disposition of the decedent’s assets after death. Or alternatively (with less labored alliteration): what will happen to your stuff when you die? Our electorate, if you will (ahem) provided for in the will consists of family, loved ones, friends, companies and charities (i.e. both the dot coms and the dot orgs). Are assets to be bequeathed equally or as-needed? Do we reward the wise, withhold from the wicked? Satisfy the simple or those who can’t compose a question? Without estate planning and a will, we have too many questions left to chance.
For parents of minor children, a will is of the essence. The parents’ last will and testament designates a guardian for their minor children (subject to court approval). Even pets get their fair share of attention in people’s wills.
Now, the Will (“Last Will and Testament” in longwinded legalese) appoints your preferred executor to enforce your wishes. Absent appointment, the Probate Court may become invasively involved: the probate court could assign an executor in conflict with your preference. Loved ones’ suffering needn’t be compounded by contention, which can be averted by declaring essential intentions in one’s will. Your wills and trusts attorney is here to ensure that your choices are made clear.
By itself, the will provides peace and promotes certainty. Yet, it’s part and parcel of a set of legal instruments. Your wills and trusts attorney prepares a package of docs that promise financial and health care wishes are honored not just in death, but while you still live. Thus, the will isn’t delivered naked; rather it’s clothed and covered with counterpart documents, within one’s Living Trust Package or the Living Estate Package (an alternative “trust-less” package).
The Living Trust or Living Estate Package
The Last Will and Testament is incorporated within one’s Living Trust Package (if you have a Living Trust) OR the Living Estate Package (if you don’t have a living trust). Both packages contain the Will together with your Durable General Power of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directive. These indispensable instruments carry out your instructions if you are incapacitated and unable to handle major decisions during your lifetime. They key word is living. Circumstances arise wherein an estate planning package protects vital interests… while we still have vital signs.
The Pour-over Will (If you have a Revocable Living Trust)
If you have a revocable living trust, then the last will and testament is an integral component of the Revocable Living Trust Package. Within the living trust, the last will and testament is affectionately dubbed a pour-over will [that’s pouring over in a good way– unlike the instance, for instance, of poured over milk, a concerning case causing contemplation of crying (at least till one’s admonished not to shed tears over spilt stuff one’s selected from the store’s dairy section).
The pour-over will makes clear that assets omitted from the trust will pour over to the trust upon death [your Information Technology engineer (i.e. “IT Guy”) might liken the pour-over function to an external back-up drive). Though trust amendments are routine, the pour-over feature curbs a need to update upon procurement of personal property (of more minor value) during one’s lifetime [after all (alas) people are perennially persistent in procuring personal property big and small; without restraint it can be our fall. Like it or not, materialism rules!].
The will also nominates an executor to carry out its provisions; for simplicity’s sake, the executor may share the chapeau of the successor trustee who administers the living trust.