9 Common Terms Used in Wills and Trusts
Writing a Will
Wills and trusts serve as vital components of any estate-planning effort. Working your way around Wills and trusts can be challenging. The following list of terms will help you get your feet wet on all things Will and trust related.
A Will starts with a section in which you identify yourself as well as your heirs. It is in this section where you swear to be of legal and of sound mind when creating the Will.
The final part of the declaration certifies that the contents of this document serve as your final Will and that you now revoke any other document declaring to serve this purpose.
You will need to name an executor. This is important in the fulfillment of your final wishes. The executor must be someone that you trust with the great responsibility of safeguarding your assets, handling the details of your funeral and administering the trusts you have outlined in your Will. Think of it this way: When you pass away, the executor of your Will legally owns all your assets. They will be your voice in any decision regarding those assets, so they must know and understand you as a person. They should also be able to communicate and get along with your family members and other beneficiaries – a diplomatic but firm presence in an otherwise unsteady time.
This is another important component in your Will. Whereas you entrust the executor with your assets, you entrust the guardian(s) with your children. You must appoint a guardian for any child under the age of 18. This person will serve the role you did as a parent—making critical decisions about your children’s care, education, upbringing and health. Be sure to choose carefully, thoughtfully and wisely. Before naming a guardian in your Will, it’s a good idea to have a discussion with whoever you wish to appoint to ensure they agree to take on the responsibility Please know this: if you do not select a guardian for your children, they will become wards of the Public Trustee and Ministry for Children and Families.
You must specifically name the people to whom you plan to leave your assets. Be sure you provide very specific details about how these people are related to you. Prepare for the possibility that some of your beneficiaries might die before you do by naming alternate beneficiaries.
This portion of your Will presents a thorough, detailed list of any property that is solely titled in your name, investment accounts, bank accounts, vehicles, stocks, bonds, airplanes, boats, real estate and business interests.
You can gift inheritance items, like family heirlooms, personal property, cash or real estate to specific beneficiaries in this section of your Will. Alternatively, you can compose instructions for the executor to use in dividing your assets amongst your beneficiaries. In the latter scenario, be sure to specify which property should be included in the pool that is to be divided and instruct whether the property should be divided equally or based on specified percentages.
No one should offer or take a job without a clear understanding of what it entails, including the expected duties, authority and limitations of the job. The same holds for the job of the executor of your estate. In this section of your Will, you detail what specific authority the executor has regarding the sale of your assets, trustees’ investment powers, compensation for fulfilling the executor role, making tax-related decisions, distribution of your physical assets, and so on.
You will do your survivors a great service by making your funeral arrangements in advance. By doing this, you will save your executor a great deal of headache by leaving instructions regarding funeral home, and other wishes. You can also use your Will to convey your final wishes, such as whether you prefer burial or cremation and what type of ceremony you would like. Keep in mind that it is not unusual for survivors to not view the Will until after the funeral, therefore it’s important that you provide your family and friends with your wishes before your passing.
If you have children to whom you wish to leave your assets, you might consider setting up trust provisions. This enables your executor to hold such assets until your children are either no longer minors or have reached an age you deem appropriate for receiving the assets. Until your child reaches the designated age, the executor or a named trustee can use funds in the trust to pay for your children’s health care, education or upbringing.
The Benefits of Using an Estate-Planning Lawyer
For many people, the wide scope of estate planning while trying to navigate Wills and trusts can be overwhelming. An option for those who find the task too daunting is to hire an estate planning attorney. This type of lawyer will help you make decisions about managing your property, money and other personal assets—including making plans for when you are gone.
An estate-planning lawyer can help you draft binding documents so that every major decision regarding control of finances, assets, medical plans, etc., is clearly specified and not left to interpretation. A good estate-planning lawyer can also devise legal strategies that will assist you when it comes to paying taxes on your properties and other assets.
Estate Planning with LegalShield
You know you need a Will, it’s your legacy to your survivors. But time passes, and you – like all of us – get distracted by the pressing matters of life, and so another year passes with no Will to specify your final wishes.
LegalShield can help you work your way around Wills and trusts. As a member of our monthly service, you will have access to a lawyer regarding any questions or issues related to your Will, trust, power of attorney, guardianship or conservatorship.
Wherever you are in your Will-writing process, a lawyer can lift some of that weight that is keeping you from pressing ahead and finishing the job.
Learn more about our personal legal plans here.
This is not intended to be legal advice. States laws can vary. Please contact your provider law firm for any legal advice or assistance.