BY MARY E. VANDENACK
Taking care of your estate plan is a difficult thing to do. First, you are busy. Second, you have to deal with the issues of death, money, your family and taxes. I agree that where you are going on vacation is a much more appealing topic (although that is interestingly when may people decide it’s time to take care of their estate plan). Proper estate planning is time consuming, sometimes complex and the results are intangible.
If you don’t have a will
If you don’t have a will, the state you live in writes the will for you. In Nebraska, your will would be something such as the following:
I, Harold Decedent, hereby give one $1000,000 plus one half of my estate to my spouse and the balance to my children even if our children are still minors. To the extent a share goes to my children, such share shall be divided equally to children who are mine without consideration to whether any such children are from a different marriage. The court can name a conservator, keep financial records public and require annual reports. If my children are of legal age, they can get their share outright without regard to their level of financial responsibility and without regard to whether we have spoken in the last ten years.
If I have minor children, the legal system can figure out who should be guardians for my children.
The legal system can also choose a personal representative for my estate. Such personal representative should pay as much as possible to federal, state and local governments in the form of whatever taxes might apply. (Note: In 2010, there is no federal estate tax but there is a complex set of basis rules that impact income taxes of heirs.) In addition., the personal representative should pay a lot in legal fees to sort everything out.
If you don’t have a will yet
If you don’t have a will at all, Nebraska has a provision that makes it easy for you to have something in place without using a software program that may or may not get the job done. Nebraska permits holographic wills. A writing is valid as a will if it is in your handwriting, signed, dated and containing material provisions such as who your heirs are, what should happen with your assets and who should be named guardian for children.
Generally, a will or estate plan should be reviewed and updated upon a move to a different state, a significant change in assets, a change in family situation, retirement or when there are law changes.
metroMAGAZINE, September 2010