Do you think  you aren’t “rich” enough for a will?  Think again!

Many people have the misconception that wills are only for the wealthy.  However, just about anyone can benefit from having an estate plan, including a last will and testament.

Here are some important reasons to have a will, even if you don’t have a lot of assets:

Less Stress For Your Heirs.

Even if your estate is very small your heirs usually will be better served if you leave a will.   If you don’t leave a will and your estate has a value above the minimal limits qualifying it for the special procedures of a “small estate,” then your estate will need to be probated.  This means that your heirs will have to prove your death and their relationship to you in order to take possession of your assets.  In most situations someone will have to file a petition with the probate court to administer your estate, which can cost a fair amount of time, money, and trouble.  Whoever petitions to be appointed as administrator of your estate will most likely have to post a probate bond to protect your heirs in case of the administrator’s fraud or misconduct.  This is an expense that can be waived by a valid Last Will and Testament.

Ability to Nominate Guardians For Your Children.

If you have minor children a will allows you to name your top choice for their guardian after you die.  While a court will have final say as to who gets appointed, your nomination will receive strong consideration.

Control Over Who Inherits From You.

When you die without a will you leave it up to Alabama’s “intestacy statute” to determine how your property is divided.  While the intestacy laws do a pretty good job of following what the average person wants to do with his property upon his death, they may not align with your wishes.  What if you have a committed partner whom you are not married to?  Under Alabama law if you die without a will your partner will not receive any part of your estate.  What if you are a blended family and die leaving a spouse and children from a previous relationship? Absent a will, your spouse and children will share equally in your estate, and that may not be what you want or what’s best for your children.  What if your only living relative is a brother whom  you haven’t spoken to in thirty years?  Alabama’s intestacy statute says that he gets your entire estate even though you are estranged. The only way you can have a say in how  your property is divided by using a Will to state your wishes.

Control Over Your Property.

While you may feel like you don’t have enough cash to care what happens to your estate you shouldn’t forget about your non-cash assets, like your personal possessions with sentimental value.  If you want your family heirlooms to go to specific people then you should record those wishes in a Last Will and Testament.

Your Financial Situation May Change.

Your estate may become more valuable overnight if, for example, you win the lottery, receive a large inheritance, or get a large raise or  bonus at work.   You may not care who inherits your property when it’s worth $5,000, but you probably would care if it suddenly ballooned in value to $500,000.00!  A will can help you plan for these possibilities, however remote they may seem.

An Estate Planning Attorney Can Help

The best way to know whether you need a will is to discuss your situation with a lawyer.   Get peace of mind by talking to our experienced estate planning attorneys today.  Call us at 205-553-5353 or come by our Tuscaloosa office to find out what we can do to protect your property and your family.

When Should I Review My Estate Plan?

If you have a will, chances are you haven’t read it or thought about it much since the day you signed it.

But what if it’s outdated and no longer fits your needs?

The best way to make sure that your estate plan still works for you is to review it regularly.

Most financial planning experts recommend reviewing your will at least annually, and definitely after you have any major life change, such as:

  • marriage or divorce (yours or a loved one/heir);
  • death, illness, or incapacity of a spouse, child, other relative, or close friend (someone you may have given property to in your will or named as a trustee, executor, or guardian);
  • if you become seriously ill and/or need long-term care;
  •  a change in your financial situation or investments;
  • if you acquire new property or assets or sell property or assets;
  • if you start a new business or close a business;
  •  if you move to a different state;
  •  the birth or adoption of a child;
  •  when your child reaches the age of majority;
  •  if there is a change in tax laws.

When you review your will you should also review your other estate planning documents, such as powers of attorney and advance directives for health care.

After you review your will you can speak with an estate planning attorney about how to make any changes that may be necessary.

What if you read through your will and aren’t sure whether it needs to be changed? An attorney can review it and help you figure out whether it still works for you.

If you’re ready to update your estate plan call our Tuscaloosa estate planning attorneys today at 205-553-5353 or visit our office.

What happens to a minor child when both of his parents die?

As with most estate planning issues, this is something that is unpleasant to think about but very important.

If one parent dies then generally the surviving parent will have custody of the child.

But what if both parents die while the child is still a minor?

In that case the court will need to determine who should become the child’s guardian. Any of your friends or family members can nominate themselves to be appointed as guardian, and then it is up to the court to decide what is best for your child.

But, of course, you and the court may have different ideas about what’s best for your child.

That’s why it’s a good idea to have a will.

In a will you can nominate someone to be your child’s guardian after your death.  The court will still have final say, but in general a lot of weight is given to the parents’ wishes.

You can even nominate an alternate or successor guardian in case your first choice is unwilling or unable to serve.

You should discuss your wishes with your child’s other parent and if possible reach an agreement as to whom you will both nominate as your child’s guardian.  If you and your child’s other parent each nominate different people in your wills and then you both die the court will ultimately determine which of your nominees should be appointed.

An experienced estate planning attorney can help you protect your family by drafting a will that nominates a guardian for your children.  Call us today at 205-553-5353 or come by our Tuscaloosa office to see how we can assist you.