In this Elder Law Minute, Kaye Dent explains why it’s important to have an elder law attorney like DCEL help you establish a proper estate plan to best live out your wishes.
Hi, I’m Kaye DeSelms Dent with Dent Coulson Elder Law, here with an Elder Law Minute for you. These videos are intended to educate you about the Elder Care Journey, which begins earlier in life than you might think. We hope that you find them useful, and if you have further questions, please call us at Dent Coulson Elder Law. Today, I’m going to tell you why you need an attorney to draft your will. This isn’t just so that you can be my client; it’s really actually very important. I have seen several cases over the years, including one recently, where people did what we call self-help Wills, meaning they pulled a form off the internet not knowing whether it complied with their state’s laws, not knowing what the words really meant, or they just scribbled something on a piece of paper. I’ve even seen it scribbled on “technically paper,” but napkin. These Wills seldom pass muster. In other words, they seldom do what they’re intended to do. Your will is intended to be a clear communication about what should happen to the assets that you own in your name only when you pass away. Jointly titled assets won’t pass through your will. That’s a very important distinction and something people often forget. If you have an IRA that has a beneficiary designation and a life insurance policy that has a beneficiary designation, those beneficiary designations are what rule; the will doesn’t affect those. If you just pull a form off the internet without really understanding it, you’re probably not going to accomplish what you intend to. And again, I’ve seen these Wills fail where, in one case, the will had so many cobbled-together provisions that were opposed to each other; in one place, it said “A,” in another place, it said “B,” and it was so unclear that we couldn’t really proceed without some Court intervention. Guess what, if the person who drafted this online will had actually gone to an attorney, spent a little bit of money on the attorney, gotten good advice, their wishes could have all been outlined properly. But instead, there were thousands and thousands of dollars spent on litigation on the back end in court, trying to figure out what this document actually meant. In another case I’ve seen, the person kind of wrote some words on the paper; it wasn’t really clear what they meant. They referred to things during their lifetime, not about when they passed away, and it wasn’t properly executed, so there’s not even a valid will. It doesn’t even really matter what the intent expressed there is; the will isn’t valid. It’s really worth your time and effort to get good counseling about how to develop an estate plan. Do you even need a will, or do you maybe need a trust? What are your options and how to properly title your assets so that they work along with your documents to properly effectuate your estate plan when you pass away, or for disability planning when you become disabled. But the bottom line is the internet can’t tell you anything; the internet can’t counsel you, attorneys can, and the attorneys here at Dent Coulson Elder Law are happy to sit down with you, provide you with counseling to explain the mysteries of estate planning to you, which really are things that you should be able to understand about your own assets, your own family, and get a proper estate plan in place, that is properly documented with a will that is properly documented again, or possibly a trust. But we are here to help and we’d be happy to hear from you.
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Dent-Coulson Elder Law is dedicated to providing families in the St. Louis area with their Elder Law needs. Our practice areas include Asset Preservation Planning, Veterans Benefits, Medicaid Eligibility, Alzheimer’s Planning, Special Needs Planning, Estate Planning and more. We understand the financial challenges you may face as you and your loved ones grow older. At Dent-Coulson Elder Law, our clients’ well-being is our number one priority. For immediate help, call (618) 632-7000 (IL) or (314) 567-9292 (MO), or Contact Us and we will get in touch as soon as possible.