Many people choose not to write their wills until they are well into adulthood. Seniors who are writing a will often have different concerns than they had as young adults. When planning your will as a senior, it's a good idea to keep certain points in mind to ensure that all your bases are covered. Consulting an attorney who practices estate law in your state can also help you ensure your will is valid and does what you want it to do.
Choosing an Executor
Your executor is the person who will carry out the instructions in your will when you die. Many people name an executor they know and trust. For seniors, it is important not only to choose an executor you trust, but an executor who is likely to outlive you. If you decide to name one of your children, you may also need to consider whether your other children will accept your choice.
Preventing Will Contests
A will contest or challenge is a court case in which someone, usually a beneficiary or a creditor, tries to prove that your will is invalid. Seniors with multi-generational families may find that keeping the peace among their children and grandchildren is a serious concern when it comes to the will. In order to prevent a will contest, consult with an attorney about the best way to set up your will to distribute your property in a way that may prevent hurt feelings. One method you may be able to use is a "no-contest" clause, which requires a beneficiary to give up his share of the estate if he contests the will and loses. However, be aware that some state courts have held these clauses to be invalid.
Providing for Grandchildren
In most states, if you die without a will, your property can only go to certain close relatives, such as your spouse or children. If you wish to provide for grandchildren, adopted children, or your sons- or daughters-in-law, you will need to do so by making a will or other estate planning arrangement for them. A will or a will in combination with a trust can allow you to fund your grandchildren's education or help provide for other family members. A lawyer can help set up a trust for their grandchildren, as this is more complicated than setting up a will.
Costs of Probate
The costs of probate are an especial concern for seniors, who represent 90 percent of all probate cases, according to the estate planning firm of Morris, Hall, and Kinghorn, PLLC, which notes that Americans spend approximately $2 billion on probate costs each year. You can help reduce probate costs by keeping a detailed inventory of your debts and assets, which cuts down on the time and expense your executor will need to prepare this inventory for the probate court. You may also pass certain assets, like joint bank accounts, outside probate. An estate planning attorney can help you set up methods to provide for your family while reducing probate costs.