Being young, single, successful, immortal and invincible, I had plenty of time to get my financial house in order! Perhaps a partner and children will come into my life and that’s when I will square my financial interests. Didn’t realize that everyday I was taking a risk and playing ‘Russian Roulette’ with all my investments, retirement and saving accounts, property and assets, etc. Never did I take the time to identify how I would like my desires and wishes to be carried out in case I got incapacitated from an accident, illness, disability or death. I guess I must have felt that I was going to live forever!
Now I had the chance to make this right. I researched the ubiquitous DIY online $49 deals, perused many DIY blogs and youtube videos. Although many of these processes seemed simple and doable, I knew it was above my expertise, knowledge and experience! So I bit the bullet and I decided to go with a professionally trained flat rate lawyer well-versed in estate planning and probate law. Boy was I glad that I did. Following is what I learnt-
- It was more than a ‘Will”. There were several ‘must have’ documents that needed to be completed, such as, revokable living trust, pour over will, durable power of attorney for assets, advance health care directive, etc.
- Any property or asset not listed ‘living trust’ goes under the jurisdiction of the probate court! During probate, it must be proven in court that the person’s Will is valid, their property is inventoried and appraised, taxes and debts must be paid (as well as the lawyers and court fees), and then the remaining property is distributed among the heirs and beneficiaries (a lengthy process). Plus, probate becomes a matter of public record at the time of the individual’s death. Most if not all DIY will end up in the probate space.
- Living trusts bypasses probate, since technically assets you put in a trust are owned by the trustee, not you, so upon death the trustee can transfer your property and assets directly to your beneficiaries. Revokable because you can amend it as you go along or to cater for any life changes that occur.
In conclusion, I think if you want to do this correctly and save your loved ones the hassle, do choose a professionally trained attorney. Not only is the process made seamless and straightforward, with long-term economic advantage, the guidance and advise was direct. For instance, I asked what if I were to buy additional property, how would that work? She told me to buy it in the name of the trust as it automatically will fall under my ‘revokable living trust’ with no need to make additional amendments! And I can always reach out to her for any questions I may have. Monies well spent!