ESTATE PLANNING, WILLS AND POWERS OF ATTORNEY
Whether you have $5,000 or $5,000,000 in assets, a Will is an important document to provide certainty of succession after your death. Without a Will, your assets will be administered and distributed after your death in accordance with statutory defaults, which may or may not be reflective of your actual desires. A Will can provide clear direction as to the distribution of your estate, ensure that its management is in a trusted executor, and provide bequests to individuals of your choosing.
Similarly, powers of attorney provide clarity for management of your assets and medical decisions while you are still alive. A power of attorney may include restrictions on the types of powers granted, or the time frames or circumstances in which the attorney may exercise them.
Preparing a Will is a collaborative process, at the bare minimum between the lawyer and the person making the Will. Ian is happy to include your investment and financial advisers in such collaboration, to ensure that the legal process accords with your broader financial plans and goals.
"KIT WILLS" vs. "LAWYER WILLS"
In the age of "kit Wills" and other online templates, the role of a lawyer still remains valuable in preparing a Will. If you buy a "kit Will", you will invariably find that the kit is provided to you on an "as-is" basis. As the user of a kit will, you are entirely responsible for interpreting any instructions that come with it, understanding the implications of any language included in or excluded from it, and ensuring that it is properly signed to be legally valid. It is not uncommon for this to result in a confusing, or even invalid Will that must be litigated after one's death, leading to one's estate going primarily to litigators rather than loved ones.
When a lawyer prepares a Will, he or she has a duty to provide feedback on your intended estate structure, and may have helpful suggestions as to alternate structures or any legal problems with your plans. The lawyer further has a positive duty to ensure that your stated wishes are reflected by the final wording, and that the Will is properly signed to be legally valid. Your beneficiaries may have a claim for losses against a lawyer who fails to fulfill these duties properly. For the comparatively modest additional cost of a lawyer-prepared Will, one can have peace of mind that loved ones will be properly provided for, and that one's wishes will be followed after death.