One drawback to being the lawyer in a family is that by default, you are looked upon for all things legal.
This happens despite the almost guaranteed phenomenon that a lawyer
will tend to specialize and become less and less familiar with legal topics outside of his or her specialty.
Would you want your podiatrist to address that pesky proctology problem? No, not ideally, but either one may be a better bet than your mailman, right?
Anyway, I get asked to deal with legal issues all the time from my family and friends. It makes sense and I always try to accommodate.
Recently, my father and step mother wish to address their Wills and Power of Attorney.
Good idea. Even lawyers neglect to GET THIS DONE and keep it up to date.
The paperwork is not so difficult even if the decisions to be made can be very difficult.
In the process of getting this all set for them, I realized it would be fairly straight forward to put the same documents on this blog and a few brief accompanying words of advice. (insert disclaimer that I am not your lawyer here. Also different states may have different rules.)
Standard Wills should be pretty ‘no frills’.
If you have a complicated estate, use a complicated Will.
HERE is a pretty simple Last Will and Testament.
Part 1, you are sane and this is the Will you really really mean, unlike all of those prior ones.
Part 2, defines you, your spouse, and any children. Specifically.
Part 3, Executors. This is the go-to person who will carry out your wishes and have all the power to enforce this document, choose carefully. Not the one you love best, but the one best suited to the task. Again, not the one you love best, but the one best suited to the task. Does not have to even be a relative.
The rest of Part 3 just spells out the ability of this person to act for you and do what is necessary to execute the Will.
Part 4. Who gets what. The highlights here are that your spouse gets everything if you die. If you both die, move on to Part 5.
Part 5. Spells out – who – gets – what.
5.2 Protects your children’s inheritance from their ex spouse should they become divorced.
5.4 could be replaced by saying “If there are no non-surviving child’s children than that share shall
revert to the living children pass to their heirs or assigns.”
It all depends on how tight you want to keep the initial disbursement.
Part 6. Is for the weird one of a kind things. Like my favorite cupie doll goes to Emily.
6.2 This sentence, “The above specific bequeaths should not count against the individual child’s share of the remaining estate” is adjustable. Many people, myself included, think it is more fair to say that the specific bequeaths should count against their share.
Part 7. Here is where you state you would like a Viking Funeral. It is better to have witnesses sign and even better to have it notarized. Make sure you send copies to your future executor(s).
Part 8. This paragraph just cleans up the language.
You should have this document witnessed, and a notary seal will put the cherry on top.
Time and time again, I have heard horror stories about the aftermath of someone’s death. Inheritance is a tricky thing and bound to bring up bad blood from the past.
A good Will can help steer quickly through these troubled waters.
Be Clear and Be Concise!
Lastly, one direct note, you are not doing anybody any good by leaving a piece of property to ‘everybody’. They will have different opinions on what to do and fight about what should happen.
If you want the lake house for everyone to use forever, leave it to your responsible/fair child and let them have control. Too many cooks spoils the soup and eventually forces the sale of the beloved lake house.