Our New York estate planning lawyers continue to advise local community members that wills are virtually obsolete for many residents. A will often creates more problems than it solves, because probate is still involved, the information is made public, and legal challenges to the will provisions are common. Estate planning is meant to simplify the transfer of assets, and wills often fail at that goal. Instead, the creation of trusts is usually a far superior method of saving taxes and streamlining the process to distribute assets quickly and seamlessly.
However, there may be limited situations where a will might be appropriate, depending on the age of the individual and their assets. As Forbes explained in an article last week, even when a will is used instead of a trust, it is vital to have professional help writing it. While do-it-yourself projects are worthwhile for home improvements and car maintenance, it is not the same vital financial planning tasks. When professional help is not sought and problems are created, it is only at the exact moment when the document is needed to work that its flaws come to light. At that point, there is no going back.
As the article explains, when done without experienced aid, wills are often filled with errors. For example, failing to sign the will, not updating it, or adding amendments improperly are common mistakes that can nullify the document. Without the guidance of professionals, imprecise wording is often used. It is much harder than many suspect to craft legal documents with language that is void of any ambiguity. Vague language is easy to misinterpret, and the one who knows for sure what was intended will not be around to explain the mistake. Estate planning lawyers are well versed in crafting legally precise terms in standard language that doesn’t equivocate.
Besides making sure one’s specific intentions are explained without ambiguity in the will, a legal professional can also ensure that important issues are considered and incorporated into the document if necessary. For example, when drafting a will on their own, many community members fail to consider important issues. What happens if an heir dies first? What happens when an asset distributed in a will is no longer owned when the will is executed? Who is responsible for paying the expenses on certain assets, like a house? A professional experienced in these matters can bring up these and many concerns that may need to be considered when going through the drafting process. This is particularly important in more complex situations, such as with blended families.
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