Berman & Asbel, LLP

The many uses of a will

Many Pennsylvania residents might be among the 60 percent of Americans that a 2011 survey found had no will. Some people may think they do not need one because they are too young, but death can occur unexpectedly at any age. Not having a will means that state intestacy law will govern how a person's assets are distributed, and that may not reflect the decedent's wishes. A will can also be used to leave money for charitable organizations.

If a person has minor children, a will can designate a guardian for them. It can also name an executor for the estate. A court will appoint an executor if one is not named, and it might not be someone that the testator or his or her family members would have chosen. Selecting the right executor may reduce the likelihood of family conflict.

Having a will can help out family members in other ways as well. It can reduce costs to family members since the estate may move through the probate process more efficiently. An estate plan can also help reduce taxes with strategies such as gifts. Working with an attorney to create a will may help ensure that the document is prepared correctly.

An attorney might be helpful in creating an estate plan in other ways as well. For example, a person may think of a trust as primarily a tool for the wealthiest people, but trusts can be beneficial in many different situations. From protecting a piece of property to caring for a relative with special needs to passing on assets directly to grandchildren, trusts can be powerful tools. People may also want to consider creating powers of attorney that will select people to make financial decisions and health care decisions for them if they become incapacitated.

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