Estate Planning Basics: I Have a Will – Isn’t That Enough? Estate Planning Basics: I Have a Will – Isn’t That Enough?

Many of us are guilty of having prepared a Will years ago and never updating it, mistakenly believing we have our affairs in order.

Your Will is a document stating who you want to receive your assets when you pass away. In order to honor those stated wishes, your Will would have to be approved by a Probate Court and a probate estate will have to be opened. That involves attorney fees, court costs, and typically, lots of time.

Did you know that even if you have a Will, your wishes will not apply to accounts with a joint owner, or to assets/accounts with beneficiaries such as life insurance, retirement accounts, and annuities?

I had a client who named his three children as beneficiaries of his life insurance policy many years ago. He had a falling out with one of them and subsequently updated his Will to leave his estate to only the other two children. Those two children were upset when the life insurance company paid the death benefit to all three children, despite what the Will stated. The life insurance company was not wrong.

Beneficiary arrangements (including “payable on death” and “transfer on death”) take precedence over what is stated in your Will. Similarly, if you add one of your children to your checking account as a joint owner so they can help you pay bills, when you pass away, any money in that account legally belongs only to the one child – regardless of what your Will says.

To make sure your assets end up with those whom you choose, sit down with an estate planning attorney who can review all of your assets and documents and advise you about the most effective and efficient way to accomplish your objective.

The attorney can, and should, work with your financial advisor to update beneficiary arrangements to match your wishes. You want to be sure you understand who would receive your assets as things are set up currently so you can make necessary changes.

Don’t let an outdated Will interfere with your desired estate plan.

Written by Carla Oglesbee
Oglesbee Law, LLC

Cambridge and Oglesbee Law, LLC are not affiliated.
Cambridge does not give legal advice.

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About the Author

Bob Hanna

Bob Hanna

Bob feels strongly that you only retire once leaving no room for mistakes. He is dedicated to building and more importantly preserving investors assets. Bob is a Financial Advisor with Cambridge, an independent broker-dealer, honored to be among the most respected firms in the industry.

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