"Wills do more than dispose of your assets, they say how you would like those assets disposed," notes John Ciccarone, an attorney with Potter, Anderson and Corroon LLP, in Wilmington, DE.
If you and your spouse were to die without wills, a court-appointed guardian would manage assets on your child's behalf until he
turns 18, at which time the child would gain control. However, human nature being what it is, many of us don't have the ability to handle large sums of money as a young adult."If I had received an inheritance at 18, I probably would have bought several sports cars," says Ciccarone
with a chuckle. With a will, parents can address such concerns by choosing to have assets dispensed to their children incrementally, or upon college graduation, or at any other time they see fit. If your assets aren't large, you may be tempted to grab a sheet of notebook paper and hand-write your own will.Such a will - called a holographic will in legalese - is recognized in many states. But Reiver and Ciccarone
strongly caution against the do-it-yourself approach.
"If my roof needs to get fixed, I'm going to get a roofer," says Ciccarone
."I could do it myself and it might seem fine, but my mistakes may not be immediately apparent."And mistakes are common in "homemade wills."One that Ciccarone
has seen is when a parent neglects to amend a will after an adult child has died."Was that child's portion intended to be passed on to his
children, or was it instead intended to go to the remaining siblings?" A professionally prepared will doesn't have to break the bank.Ciccarone
says a simple estate plan prepared by a local attorney can cost as little as $400 to $500.That price includes not only a will, but two other documents that he feels are essential: a durable power of attorney that appoints an agent to handle your financial affairs upon your incapacity, and a heathcare directive that stipulates who will make medical decisions on your behalf.
The healthcare directive may or may not include a living will component, depending on your wishes. A much more extensive estate plan that includes counsel on tax planning strategies may cost $1,500 to $1,800 in the tri-state region, says Ciccarone
. You may think tax planning isn't a concern now that the Tax Reform Act of 2001 has passed, eliminating the estate tax in 2010.