As you get ready to make important estate plans, thinking about how you want your assets divided is key. While your will preparation lawyer will be ready with advice and input, what you bequeath to who is ultimately up to you. Below you will find a few things to consider as you prepare to make a last will and testament with the help of a lawyer.
Per Stirpes – the Simple Way to Divide Property
You may not have come across the term per stirpes. It's usually used in estate planning to describe a will that leaves an estate to one or more people. Each item of property is not named individually.
For example, you might have three adult children. You can name them all to inherit your estate per stirpes. The estate is valued and then divided equally between all three children. This provision applies mostly to real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, and other valuable items. This type of will is easy to deal with because the creator of the will doesn't need to name each and every piece of property. The downside is that property like a home is not easily divided. It can also be problematic if those named don't get along with each other.
Setting Aside Specific Assets
The other common way to divide an estate is to name major assets and then bequeath them to someone. This method works well when you have certain items that you have in mind for certain beneficiaries. For example, a niece that has always admired your book collection can be named as the beneficiary of that collection. You should be prepared to name all valuable assets in this manner because you cannot use both this method along with the per stirpes method.
When You Are Married
If you have a living spouse, speak to your will lawyer about your plans for your property. Estate planning depends a lot on state laws, and some states have specific rules about what must be done for a current spouse. In some states, for example, you cannot prevent a spouse from inheriting at least a portion of a home. While each is different in the way they decide these matters, the length of the marriage and the state of the relationship may be considered. For instance, if the couple has been separated for quite some time, one party may be able to exclude the other from the will.
Speak to an attorney about will preparation.