“Where there’s a will there’s a way…to get your estate wishes granted”
Important Questions About Wills and Answers from Nina B. Stillman
Discussing a will is not the most pleasant of tasks for obvious reasons. Not everyone has the will to create a will (so to speak). In fact, AARP reports that two out of five Americans don’t have wills. We obviously have a lot of work to do at Hecht Schondorf – and the reason is simple: a will is a document everyone should have. Why? What are the basics? What do I need to know beyond the basics? I get these questions frequently so here’s a brief FAQ section:
Frequently Asked Questions
Nina: Forgive the basics: A will is a legal document that coordinates the distribution of your assets after death and is the only way to appoint guardians for minor children upon your passing. A will is important to have, as it allows you to communicate your wishes clearly and precisely.
Nina: (1) Yes, unless you don’t mind if the state determines who gets your money, your property, and yes, even care of your dog. A will is also critical if you have children who need care and a guardian. You can think of it as your last wish list; you get to distribute your property according to your wishes.
(2) It is critical if you own a business. At Hecht Schondorf, we deal a lot with life, law and a lot of businesses. If you are a business owner and die intestate (without a will), the state will decide who will own your business. Rules vary from state to state, but generally surviving spouses receive everything, including the business. If you don’t have a spouse or children, assets will generally stay in the family and go to your parents if they are living and if not, to your siblings.
Without a will, the company you’ve put so much of your time and endless passion into building, could end up in the hands of a relative whose relative knowledge of your business is non-existent. It is possible to envision a scenario where stepchildren who don’t like your business at all end up inheriting it. The proactive, sensible step most owners take is to write down in advance who should inherit the business and to whom shares of ownership should be distributed.
(3) It’s something important to do for the people you love. Nobody wants to leave really tough, emotionally charged decisions, and a lot of work to their loved ones. There can be family arguments and disputes over property and precious items – who gets the good set of silver—Grandma’s wedding ring, the ATV, the plasma TVs, the Van Gogh versus the Dali? (We’ve seen such cases arise.) You can avoid those hassles and gain peace of mind knowing that the things you value will go to the loved ones who deserve them. It is also a lot less work to settle your estate if there are clear directions.
Some types of property, including insurance policies and retirement accounts, generally aren’t covered by wills. If you have these assets you have probably already decided who the beneficiaries of those will be. An additional part of your Estate Plan is for me to help you coordinate those items with the distribution of the assets that are covered by your will
Nina: We deal with reality at this firm and the answer is no! You don’t need me or the firm to prepare your will. You’re not required by law to use an attorney. There are “do-it-yourself will kits” and documents available online. So why do people hire us?
The passing of assets is governed by the laws of the state where you live. The online kits do not always consider the laws of the state you live in. They are very general. (You get what you pay for!) They also do not cover you if you own property in more than one state. (Have a cabin or vacation home in another state? Covered by a will but usually means probate in more than one state.) The biggest reason someone hires me is because they don’t want to do it themselves. There are vitally important questions to answer and issues at stake. You need a document that will be rock solid, especially if a relative or someone else contests your will – and that happens all the time. We can assure you that with our experience and expertise it will be no contest between the relative and us!
Call me regarding other personal or business inquiries, questions and concerns. Your initial consultation is complementary.
I welcome the chance to talk and the opportunity to earn your trust.
Call me at (312) 878-1202.