How do you settle a simple Will? Clients often attend with their lawyer and say, “I have a simple estate – everything goes to my husband and children.” While that does sound simple, not all may be as it seems.
Several questions need to be answered, even in that statement.
You may want your estate to go to your husband first and then to your children when he passes away. Alternatively, if your husband has sufficient funds, you may want your children to inherit some of your estate at the time of your passing.
You may have a child that has or will pre-decease you, and that child has blessed you with grandchildren. There is specific wording you need in your Will to ensure that the deceased child’s share of your estate will go to their children (called per stirpes in Latin).
You may have young children. Placing a trust staggered their inheritance into stages as they mature will avoid the pitfalls of receiving large sums of money without having the life experience and guidance to manage it successfully.
As you can see, there is not really any such thing as a ‘simple’ will. Without specific legal considerations and particular wording, there might be unintended consequences that are costly and time consuming to sort out after your death.
Alternatively, there is such a thing as making a will too complicated. Directing your estate funds after you are gone can only go so far.
In a Will, you may not promote a marriage breakdown or go against public policy as a condition of receiving an inheritance.
So, while you can place funds in trust for your son for the purpose of education or buying a home, you cannot hold those funds on the condition that he divorces his wife (marriage breakdown), be a member of a specific religious group (religious freedom) or void the gift if he contests the Will (Application of Valid Legislation).
Further, if you direct an unreasonably long period of time for your beneficiary to receive their inheritance from a trust, they can apply to the court to have that condition removed.
How A Lawyer Helps
At the end of the day, your estate is yours to distribute how you wish, but the wording in your Will must conform to certain legal principles and must be clear in its directions. A lawyer can help you make sure your last wishes are met by ensuring what is written in your Will is what will actually occur upon distributing your estate, simple or not!