Path #5 - Write a Will and Leave it at That
What control do you have? Answer: As long as you are competent and alive, you can always change your will.
What fees, costs and commissions have you saved? Answer: None. If you write a will and leave it at that, your estate is going to go through probate and partake in all probate's attendant costs, fees, commissions, delays, publicity, frustrations, and agonies.
Who will control the allocation and distribution of your estate? The executor named in your will must follow the will's instructions as to the allocation and distribution of your estate.
Most of us want to avoid probate. Probate is relatively expensive, time consuming, public, archaic, frustrating, agonizing, prone to generate lawsuits, complicated, inflexible, impossible if you own property in more than one state, difficult if there are minor beneficiaries, and unable to accommodate the needs of children born of a prior marriage.
Some of these claims are not true. A will can be as flexible as a Revocable Living Trust and a will can accommodate the needs of both minor beneficiaries and children born of prior marriages. Furthermore Revocable Living Trusts, if anything, are generally more complicated and more expensive to write than a will.
Otherwise, all things being equal, the public's fear and loathing of probate is quite justified. In all except the simplest and smallest of estates, the probate of a will, compared to the settlement of a Revocable Living Trust is relatively more expensive, time consuming, public, archaic, frustrating, agonizing, prone to generate lawsuits, difficult, and particularly so, if you own property in more than one state.
A will is, however, a necessary part of any well thought out estate plan. Everyone, even those who have very simple estates, those who have Revocable Living Trusts, those who want to gift it all away, and those who want to make everything TOD or POD should have a will. A will can and should be the ultimate fall back document, or insurance policy, if you will, that will take care of the unexpected and provide an orderly way to:
- Dispose of unexpected or suddenly acquired property,
- Leave property you do not currently own but expect to receive,
- Name a guardian for a minor child or minor heir,
- Disinherit a child,
- Name an executor, and
- Assure an orderly small estate probate.
Writing a will and leaving it at that will work so long as you understand that there will be a probate. The probate will be relatively expensive, time consuming, public, and agonizing, all of which could be easily avoided by writing a Revocable Living Trust and transferring your property into it.