Is a Simple Will Enough? - Rodgers & Associates

Is a Simple Will Enough?

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA12) provided a much needed level of perma­nence to estate taxation on the federal level. The federal estate tax exemption is currently $5.25 million and porta­bility provides a married couple with a total exemption of $10.5 million. Many people are wondering if they need a complex estate plan if their estate will be less than the exemption, or if a simple will is enough.

A simple will is a legal document that applies only to the maker of the will and provides instruc­tions for the final dispo­sition of your estate. The document names your benefi­ciaries, family members or not, and insti­tu­tions, such as charities. There should be enough infor­mation about the benefi­ciaries to adequately identify them.

The will also appoints your personal repre­sen­tative, who is known as your executor. This is the person who is legally respon­sible for making sure the instruc­tions in your will are followed. A backup executor should be named in case the first person is unable to act for you. If you have minor children, your will should also name guardians for them. This is the person(s) who will care for your children or for anyone else for whom you are legally respon­sible. Finally, the will provides instruc­tions for how you want your assets distributed, and to whom. There could be other provi­sions required depending on your state of residence.

Everyone’s situation is unique and the reality is all wills are simple if they meet your needs and the needs of your family. The cost of having an experi­enced estate planning attorney prepare a will is a relatively small part of your financial plan. Instead of focusing on a simple will, make sure your will contains the right language to accom­plish your goals and protect your family assets. Be sure to discuss the will with your family to avoid family problems after you’re gone.