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Beneficiary Designation: Essential Tips

One of the most difficult parts about having an interest in estate planning, probate, and beneficiary designations specifically is that you are in a situation right now where a loved one has passed away. Or, you may be contemplating a situation where you will be planning for your end-of-life circumstances and the creation of a will that should protect your loved ones and ensure that they can receive the property that you would like them to. None of this is pleasant to have to deal with it but that is what you have in front of you.

Your legacy is at stake if you are the person who is contemplating the creation of a will that can clearly state your intentions with your property. Legacy means having your name, your goals, and the way that you went about creating and accomplishing those goals as part of that legacy. If you have ever sat back and wanted to create something that can outlive you and benefit your family, friends, or anyone you choose for generations to come.

What is nobility?

I’m sure that you’ve heard of the word “noble” before. When you hear the word, I am also sure that an image comes to mind or at least a feeling of what that name means. A stately English gentleman lays his coat down on the cobblestone path so that his wife does not dirty her beautiful shoes. That could be one image. However, when I think of nobility I think of a different scene. See, the gentleman laying down his coat on the muddy street to help his wife may be doing that for some unnamed benefit. Nobility is doing something for someone who will have no way of paying you back.

Think of nobility like this: you decide to plant a tree- not in your backyard but somewhere you will never be able to enjoy the shade of the tree. You planted that tree for the betterment of someone else. That is what being noble means. You can continue with that metaphor when it comes to estate planning. Once you die, there is no way for you to benefit from any action that you undertake. Rather, what you did during your life is what will matter. What you failed to do will also matter a great deal in some circumstances.

If you want your legacy to be nobility then you need to start planning for how to account for your time, talent, and treasures. What are you going to do to cause future generations to look back on your life and say that you lived your life well, were intentional about your actions, and did everything that you could help the people that you cared about the most during your life? That is nobility. Plant as many trees as you can- even if you’ll never be able to enjoy the shade.

Why have a will?

The will is the most useful form of estate planning for all different types of people. Let’s stay on this topic for a moment. Have you ever been told that a will is only for rich people? I’ve heard that many times in my life. Movies and television shows depict the people who create wills as having a great deal of money and property to dispense to their family members once they pass. Whether the family is happy about how the will turns out is another subject altogether. However, the myth that wills are only for rich people is just that- a myth.

Rather, a will is for everyone. Every adult should have a will. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or don’t have. It doesn’t matter who you want to receive property from you after you die. It is good practice to have a will. For no other reason than it allows you to retain autonomy over your property after you die. What you need to remember is the alternative to a will is allowing the Texas Estates Code and a probate court judge to determine where your property will go and who will end up getting it.

Having a will is important because it shows that you are being intentional. Intentionality is one of those characteristics which correlates highly with building wealth and having an estate worth passing down to another person. You are not going to wander into the estate planning process and then wander out while accomplishing anything of merit. Rather, what you need to remember is you should be as intentional as you can be in accomplishing what you would like in the estate planning process.

Creating a will provides the framework for all estate planning matters. If you can create a will then you can create a gameplan for your life and your money moving forward. It is so critical to the well-being of your estate to have a plan and understand how to get moving towards working that plan intentionally. The clearer you can be in your will the more likely you are to be protected against any number of challenges that can come your way. If you have your estate plan solidified, then there is not much that you can’t do during your life.

A will is great, and a will can help your family but only if you take the initiative and get it done. You cannot sit around and expect that you will have a long runway in terms of getting your will created and having an opportunity to put into writing how you want your property to be divided. The reality of the situation is that we are not promised tomorrow. Although we would like to think that we get to choose when we are going to pass on from this world the reality is that we have no idea when we are going to die. Putting off the creation of a will is a dangerous move considering this reality.

Instead, what you can focus on is developing a plan now and then working out the kinks later. Nobody is telling you that you need to immediately have a planned product as far as your will is concerned. That would be unrealistic and counterproductive. Rather, what you need to focus on now is creating a blueprint for how to create a method for providing for future generations with your estate. Different people are going to be able to provide for people in different ways. What you can focus on is how your life can be set up as a blueprint for others in terms of helping them chart a course for their lives and get a head start due to your generosity and nobility.

If, at the end of today’s blog post, you have any questions about the material that we have written about please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed estate planning attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week. Nobody likes the idea of having to plan out their estate or contemplate their death. However, given the circumstances that you find yourself in this is the most prudent course of action for you to take. We would be honored if you would call or reach out to our office today so that we can talk with you about your options and help you ease into the world of estate planning,

Choosing beneficiaries for your will

Without a doubt, choosing the beneficiaries for your will is the most significant step that you can take when it comes to developing a strategy for your will. Without having a cause to fight for, something to believe in, and a group of people to be responsible for then this whole process has no soul- no real content to it. Sure, you can do the responsible thing and have the will to avoid probate or avoid disagreements between family members after you pass. These are all good reasons why you should a will. However, if you can link up with the people that you are going to be leaving your money to then that is all the better.

What I am suggesting is that you need to discover your “why” Why are you saving all this money instead of being irresponsible? Why are you wanting to leave this property to that person? Why are you going to spend time, money, and effort now on your will when you can spend it elsewhere in a more enjoyable fashion? If you can answer these questions, then you will be well on your way to making great financial and estate planning decisions.

Have you started to consider who you want to leave your property to after you pass away? This is the most fundamental question that you can ask yourself. It is not necessarily the case that you must leave your property to your immediate family after you pass away. That is what many people choose to do but is not what you necessarily have to do. Some people have strained relationships with their children. Some people have children or other immediate family members with addiction issues. In that case, leaving an addict a boatload of cash is simply encouraging that addict to engage even further in their addiction. Rather than be an enabler you may have decided that it is better to cut that person out of your will entirely. It can hurt to have that discussion with your family member, but it may be the encouragement that he or she needs to get on the straight and narrow path.

You may have a church or other not-for-profit organization that you would like to leave your money to. You must be intentional if you want to leave your money to one of these groups. There is nothing in the Estates Code that can lead your money to one of these organizations if you die without a will. If you want to leave money to a charity or church you need to take the bull by the horns and see to it that these entities, churches, and other not-for-profit groups are specifically mentioned in your will before your opportunity to change or update your will becomes set it stone.

Be specific and be clear (as much as possible)

When it comes to listing out your spouse in a will it is wise to be clear about who he or she is. Specific language is harder to screw up when it comes to a court ultimately determining how to interpret the language contained in that document. Rather than assume that the executor of your will and/or a probate court will interpret the will correctly it is a good idea for you to be very clear about the will itself. You can name your spouse by name and then very clearly state that he or she is your spouse. You may even want to include the date on which you two got married. What you want to avoid is a situation where the probate court cannot tell who your spouse is if you are even married.

Next, if you have children then you need to mention who they are along with their ages. If you have minor children, then you may want to do something to prepare for the possibility that you and your wife may pass away as a result of an accident at the same time. When this happens, a testamentary trust may be your best bet. A testamentary trust allows you to create a trust using the funds in your estate to care for your children after you and your spouse pass away. A trustee would be named, and the property contained in the trust will be distributed to your children This way your children will be cared for according to your plan even if you pass away unexpectedly.

On the other hand, if you do not want to include your children in your will then you should be very clear about your having purposefully kept them out of the will. Again, you may have specific reasons for doing this. You cannot control your adult children. The bottom line is that if you want to disinherit a child you need to state that your youngest child (or whichever) should be treated as having predeceased you, this way there is little confusion about who gets what.

If you are nearing or are already into your golden years, then you have likely had a concern over time that has developed related to you losing your ability to make good decisions for yourself. This is what competency is. If you were incompetent to draft a will that opens the possibility that your will could be contested do as much as you can to establish that you are of sound mind and capable of drafting a will.

What is the extent of your bounty? In other words: how much property do you own? While you can do so, walk through your home, and take photos of the items there. Once you have done this you can go out to the garage, your vehicle, your storage locker, and any place else where you may have a property and begin to make a list of that property. This can be the baseline from which you can start planning on who gets what as far as your property is concerned.

Once you have your estate inventoried you can begin to draft the document. After all this work isn’t it a good idea to start on the right foot when it comes to drafting a will? Working with an experienced estate planning attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is a great direction for you to go in. We can help you to avoid the unnecessary pitfalls and dangers that you otherwise may encounter along this journey towards estate planning. While nobody can predict the future, we can say that you can minimize the occurrence of odd events by having a plan and then seeing that plan come to fruition.

All in all, there is no foolproof plan when it comes to establishing beneficiaries in a will. You know your circumstances better than anyone so I believe that you should think about your options a great deal even before you consider who gets what and why. It is not a foregone conclusion that your immediate family is going to end up with all your property. However, if you die without a will then that becomes the most likely situation for you to find yourself in.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed estate planning attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. these consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of estate planning and will creation but also find out more about the potential impacts on your family if a probate case is filed.

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