Atlanta Financial Newsroom

What You Can Do With a Will

AFA
November 16, 2017

A will is often the cornerstone of an estate plan. Here are five things you can do with a will.

Last WillDistribute property as you wish

Wills enable you to leave your property at your death to a surviving spouse, a child, other relatives, friends, a trust, a charity, or anyone you choose. There are some limits, however, on how you can distribute property using a will. For instance, your spouse may have certain rights with respect to your property, regardless of the provisions of your will.

Transfers through your will take the form of specific bequests (e.g., an heirloom, jewelry, furniture, or cash), general bequests (e.g., a percentage of your property), or a residuary bequest of what’s left after your other transfers. It is generally a good practice to name backup beneficiaries just in case they are needed.

Note that certain property is not transferred by a will. For example, property you hold in joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety passes to the surviving joint owner(s) at your death. Also, certain property in which you have already named a beneficiary passes to the beneficiary (e.g., life insurance, pension plans, IRAs).

Nominate a guardian for your minor children
In many states, a will is your only means of stating who you want to act as legal guardian for your minor children if you die. You can name a personal guardian, who takes personal custody of the children, and a property guardian, who manages the children’s assets. This can be the same person or different people. The probate court has final approval, but courts will usually approve your choice of guardian unless there are compelling reasons not to.

Nominate an executor
A will allows you to designate a person as your executor to act as your legal representative after your death. An executor carries out many estate settlement tasks, including locating your will, collecting your assets, paying legitimate creditor claims, paying any taxes owed by your estate, and distributing any remaining assets to your beneficiaries. As with naming a guardian, the probate court has final approval but will usually approve whomever you nominate.

Specify how to pay estate taxes and other expenses
The way in which estate taxes and other expenses are divided among your heirs is generally determined by state law unless you direct otherwise in your will. To ensure that the specific bequests you make to your beneficiaries are not reduced by taxes and other expenses, you can provide in your will that these costs be paid from your residuary estate. Or, you can specify which assets should be used or sold to pay these costs.

Create a testamentary trust or fund a living trust
You can create a trust in your will, known as a testamentary trust, that comes into being when your will is probated. Your will sets out the terms of the trust, such as who the trustee is, who the beneficiaries are, how the trust is funded, how the distributions should be made, and when the trust terminates. This can be especially important if you have a spouse or minor children who are unable to manage assets or property themselves.

A living trust is a trust that you create during your lifetime. If you have a living trust, your will can transfer any assets that were not transferred to the trust while you were alive. This is known as a pourover will because the will “pours over” your estate to your living trust.

Caveat
Generally, a will is a written document that must be executed with appropriate formalities. These may include, for example, signing the document in front of at least two witnesses. Though it is not a legal requirement, a will should generally be drafted by an attorney.

There may be costs or expenses involved with the creation of a will or trust, the probate of a will, and the operation of a trust.

Share This:

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on google
Google+

4 Things That Will Be More or Less Expensive After Coronavirus

COVID-19 has impacted nearly every aspect of the economy. When President Donald Trump declared the virus a national emergency at the beginning of March, standards of living rapidly shifted: governors enacted stay-at-home orders, learning institutions closed and consumers suddenly faced unprecedented challenges.1 While the travel and tourism industry is seeing record lows, demand for staple foods and hygiene products has surged.

Read More »

4 Lessons Learned from the Last (Great) Recession

When financial markets fall and the economy stumbles, the phrase “this time it’s different” is commonly heard. This is a natural reaction as the strongest emotions tend to arise at the onset of a downturn when uncertainty is greatest. But if history has taught us anything, it’s that the most practical strategies to implement in any downturn are fundamentally the same each time regardless of market and economic events.

The COVID-19 pandemic might be unlike anything we have seen before, but the uncertainty is nothing new to a financial market that has remained strong and impervious over time. At times like this, looking at history and incorporating its lessons is always a prudent strategy.

Read More »

Tools to Survive (and Thrive) During Tough Times

Resiliency is one of the characteristics I most admire in others, and that I have always tried to foster in my children and live out in my own life.  And we certainly have an opportunity in these unusual times to practice it on almost a daily basis. One of my favorite quotes on the subject speaks to the personal growth that can come from difficult times: “On the other side of a storm is the strength that comes from having navigated through it. Raise your sail and begin.” — Gregory S. Williams I am sure many of you have developed ways to cope and even thrive over the last few weeks as you have adjusted to the “new normal” that comes with quarantine and social distancing.  But I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of the best resources we have found to help us all emerge on the “other side of the storm” stronger than we began.

Read More »

Exercise & The COVID-19 Outbreak

As most everyone can attest, things are different right now!  Dining out hasn’t been an option until recently, seeing a movie in a theater seems risky, and going to the gym seems wrought with potential coronavirus exposure.  For those of us who enjoy exercising, we’ve had to change our routines to adhere to “stay at home” orders and social/physical distancing.  We’ve needed unique ways to maintain our exercise regimen. Thankfully, there are great alternatives to a public gym and I’d like to share a few of those options with you. The first exercise alternative is an “old-school” option that is tried and true! 

Read More »

Yearly Archive

Author Archive