During your end-of-life planning, you’ll need to understand the difference between estate planning vs. will preparation. Estate planning is a broader umbrella of end-of-life planning that often includes a will and elements such as a power of attorney, trusts, and an advanced health care directive. Comprehensive estate planning with an experienced attorney from Travis Walker Law can help you protect your assets, plan your taxes, and more.
When considering end-of-life planning, you may think about drafting a will. A will is a useful document to have when it comes to distributing your assets after your death. However, that may not cover everything you need.
For instance, you may reach a point towards the end of your life where you are no longer of sound mind to make legal decisions. To prepare for this, it helps to appoint someone who has power of attorney to handle your affairs. You may also want to set up trusts for underage beneficiaries. You may need more comprehensive estate planning to cover these complex issues. Thus, it’s necessary to understand the differences among estates, trusts, and wills.
So, what is estate planning vs. will preparation? Travis Walker Law has experience helping our clients prepare wills, plan estates, and do anything that may fall under end-of-life planning. Learn about the distinctions between estate planning vs. will preparation and which might be most suitable for you.
What Is a Will?
A will is a legal document that lays out how your property will be distributed among your beneficiaries after your death. Traditionally, most people leave their property to their heirs, but you can designate a different beneficiary within your will. If you have underage children, you can name a guardian for them. You can also appoint an executor of your estate who will administer it after your death.
A will is an essential document, but there are several important things that it cannot do, including the following:
- Gift property held in a living trust or money held in an insurance plan
- Gift your retirement or pension benefits to another person
- Give beneficiaries direct access to bank accounts holding funds that have been left for them
- Dictate funeral or memorial instructions because wills are typically not found until after funerals have occurred
- Transfer ownership of jointly owned property
- Avoid or reduce property taxes for your loved ones
- Avoid the probate process
Due to Hollywood portrayals, people often believe a will to be the ultimate element of end-of-life planning. Everyone has seen a movie or TV show that portrayed a will reading with the entire family gathered around, detailing all of the deceased’s final affairs, including their burial. There’s usually a big surprise.
In reality, a copy of the will is usually mailed out to relevant parties by the estate attorney. Since the will is often not located until after the funeral, funeral and burial plans are rarely included.
Choosing Between a Will and Estate Planning
End-of-life planning is never “one size fits all.” What works for your uncle or next-door neighbor may not be the right choice for you. You may not need any more than a will. However, you may feel more comfortable with the extra protection of a comprehensive estate plan. Both options carry their own pros and cons. To decide the right option for you, you must consider the size of your estate, your dependents, your health, and your family’s health history.
Pros for Drafting a Will Alone
- It’s simpler than preparing a comprehensive estate plan.
- It may be just enough if you have a small estate and no underage children.
- Because it is a simpler process, the attorney’s fees will likely be lower.
Cons for Drafting a Will Alone
- It will not do much to take care of the assets of a larger estate.
- You won’t be able to set up a trust for underage children.
- Your heirs will face higher taxes and court fees.
- The will is not private, and the probate process can be lengthy.
Pros For Estate Planning
- You will have a thorough plan to cover all your assets and estate.
- You can make plans in case you become incapacitated—such as designating someone as an agent under a power of attorney or giving family members “do not resuscitate” orders.
- Taxes and fees will be lower for your heirs.
- The probate process will be expedited, saving time and energy for your heirs.
Cons For Estate Planning
- Estate planning is lengthier and more complex than just drafting a will.
- The attorney’s fees will likely be greater, although you will save your family money in the long run.
- It may not be necessary unless you have a sizable estate.
If your estate is worth $1 million or more, a will is likely not going to be sufficient for your end-of-life planning. Additionally, if you want to name underage children or grandchildren as beneficiaries, it may be wise to set up a trust so they can receive their money when they reach adulthood. This can also be appropriate for disabled beneficiaries with guardians who need those funds for their care.
A will is a good option if your affairs are relatively simple. For everything else, it’s best to go with comprehensive estate planning.
Frequently Asked Questions About Estate Planning vs. Will Preparation
Why Are Wills an Important Piece of the Estate Plan?
A will may not be all you need for end-of-life planning, but it is an essential component because it lays out what should become of your property after your death, including who will inherit which assets.
What Is the Difference Between a Will and an Executor?
A will is a legal document that lays out the distribution of your property after your death. An executor is the person who is responsible for distributing that property, usually outlined in the will.
Do Bank of America or Other Large Banks Do Wills?
Many banks and financial institutions, including Bank of America, can help you plan your finances and serve as executors. However, they are not lawyers and cannot give you the legal advice you need to properly draft estate documents that effectively handle your affairs.
What Is the Downside of an Irrevocable Trust?
Irrevocable trusts are tools used in the estate planning process to avoid tax liability when you die. An irrevocable trust cannot be changed once assets are moved into it. This can offer security for your beneficiary but also means the trust is out of your control once created.
Using Travis Walker for Estate Planning and Wills
Travis Walker Law is a dependable, experienced family and probate law office, and we can help you with your estate planning and wills. Our managing attorney, Travis Walker, has been in practice for 16 years, helping clients navigate complex family and probate court issues with compassion and authority. We share our vast experience in estate planning through a guide to the 25 steps to estate planning.
We believe that estate planning is best done to prepare for life rather than to prepare for death. Comprehensive estate planning helps your family know what to do if you are alive but incapacitated and ensures that your family lives full and secure lives after you’re gone. It also enables you to protect as much of your estate as possible. Comprehensive estate planning goes far beyond a will, but a will is included.
Our attention to detail and care for our clients make us stand out as a law firm. From the words of one of our own clients: “I have been greatly encouraged by the heart, spirit, and generosity of Travis Walker and his staff for three years now. They are unfailingly professional, honorable, responsive, capable, and effective.” For more information, check out these testimonials from our clients.
Call Us for a Consultation
Planning for your end-of-life affairs is an important step in ensuring your wishes are carried out and your loved ones are taken care of. If you’re ready to start the process, consider consulting with Travis Walker Law for all your estate planning and will needs. Our experienced attorneys can guide you through the process and help you create a comprehensive plan that meets your unique needs. Contact Travis Walker Law today to learn more or to schedule a consultation.