When a will is not enough
Many people living in South Carolina understand the importance of having a will. What they may not understand, however, is that a will is just the start of a comprehensive estate plan. While wills are helpful in ensuring that a deceased person’s wishes regarding asset distribution are respected, other documents and plans are necessary to protect the interests of both the individual making the estate plan as well as their dependents.
When somebody makes an estate plan, one area of consideration should be the relationships between family members at the time of, and after, their death. Unfortunately, old resentments and unexpected misunderstandings can lead to significant heartache if family members are in disagreement over end-of-life decisions and distribution of personal property.
Appropriate end-of-life documents, such as living wills or medical powers of attorney, are often helpful in reducing conflict over the decision to end life-prolonging medical treatment. A letter of intent and instruction designates what happens to personal effects that may have little monetary value but great sentimental significance to loved ones. When the deceased specifies who inherits certain items, disputes between family members are less likely to happen.
Individuals should also keep in mind that estate plans are not static. Changes in circumstances, such as deaths, marriages, divorces and births may necessitate a change to an estate plan. Failure to keep up with these changes can actually make a well-written and well-considered plan useless because the people named as beneficiaries or executors are no longer alive or able to fill the duties designated in the estate plan.
An individual who is considering writing a will could benefit from speaking with an experienced attorney. The lawyer may be able to review the client situation and make recommendations for creating or updating an estate plan.