A common theme among estate planning articles is that a simple will is not enough. Do not let these articles scare you as, for most people, a will is more than sufficient.
According to Dave Ramsey, a simple will is a document that lets you outline what assets you want to give away, to whom and how; name a guardian for your kids; and choose an executor, or a person who will carry out your wishes. For many people, these benefits are more than enough. However, for others, a simple will may be too simple for their situations.
When a simple will may work for you
Despite popular belief, a simple will is more than enough to carry out the end-of-life wishes of the average American. In fact, if you are under the age of 50 and if the value of your assets is not enough to trigger estate taxes, a will may serve your estate planning goals just fine. Ramsey provides a few examples of situations that necessitate no more than a will:
- You are single, do not have any dependents and own your property outright
- You are married with young children and have a young but growing investment portfolio
- You are of retirement age, married or widowed, have adult children and have less than $1,000,000 in assets
In each of these situations, you can use a will to accomplish common estate planning goals such as naming heirs, appointing guardians for young children and divvying up your assets equally among your children.
When a simple will may not suffice
When certain factors exist, you may need more than just a simple will to accomplish your estate planning goals. While every person’s situation is unique, you may want to discuss more sophisticated options with an attorney if you own a business; are a divorcee and/or have children from a previous relationship; you think a friend, loved one or acquaintance may challenge your wishes; the value of your estate may subject it to heavy estate taxes; you want to control how much money your children receive and when; you want to support a disabled loved one after you are gone; and/or you want to leave money or land to your grandchildren.