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What is a Simple Will?

Everyone knows that a "will" is the document that says who gets your property after your death - but what is a "simple will?"

"Simple will" is not a legal term - it's just a way of saying that you do not have a complex estate, there are no tax issues that you need to resolve in the will, there are no trusts that need to be created to accomplish your goals, and there are no legal issues like how to protect a disabled child or family member's assets after your death.

When is a simple will enough to accomplish your goals, and when do you need a "complex will?"

When is a Simple Will Enough?

If your goal is to name the persons who will receive your property after your death, identify the executor for your estate, and maybe appoint guardians for your children, a simple will is enough.

What are some examples?

  • You are single and don't have much money in the bank or assets, but you do own a piece of land. You can use a simple will to name your executor and to name the person or persons your property will pass to when you are gone.
  • You are married with some assets, three children, and you hope that your assets will grow over time. You can use a simple will to name the executor of your estate, name a guardian for the children should both you and your spouse die, and determine who your assets will pass to when you die (your spouse if you pass first, or your spouse and your children jointly).
  • You are single but divorced, with two children and maybe $200,000 in total assets. You can use a simple will to leave all your assets to your children in equal parts, name a guardian for any minor children, and name the executor of your estate.

A "simple will" just means that your will, for now, is uncomplicated. You want to keep it as simple as possible, and you do not have any considerations like avoiding estate taxes or protecting your assets for a disabled (or spendthrift) child. When do you need something a bit more complex?

When is a Simple Will Not Enough?

For many people, a simple will is all they need. If circumstances change down the road, you can always amend the will (and people often do).

How do you know if you need a simple will or a complex will? If you aren't sure, ask your attorney. Your probate and estates lawyer on the Axelrod team will review your situation with you including your assets, your goals, and any special considerations that you may have.

Some examples of clients who may require a complex include:

  • When you suspect your will may be contested;
  • If you need to provide for a child who is disabled with a special needs trust and protect their assets after your death;
  • When you need to provide for a child who is a "spendthrift" and you want to ensure they do not squander their assets after your death;
  • When you need to avoid paying excessive estate taxes after your death;
  • If you are a business owner;
  • If you have previous spouses or children from prior marriages;
  • If you have any goals that cannot be accomplished with a simple will, such as leaving a "life estate" to your children that will then pass to your grandchildren.

Does a Simple Will Allow You to Avoid Probate?

A simple will does not allow you to avoid probate, although there are tools that your attorney can use to avoid probate in some cases.

Can I Change My Will Later?

You can always change your will - many people do as their life circumstances change. You may want to keep the "simple will" and just change who receives property and how much, or you may discover that you need a comprehensive estate plan that is a bit more involved as you accumulate wealth and as your life circumstances change.

You may divorce, you might get married, one of your children may become disabled, you may discover that you have value in your business that is worth more than you thought it was, or you may discover any change in circumstances that requires amendments or a complete re-write of your Last Will and Testament.

You can make changes to your will at any time and for any reason. When you are not sure if you need to rewrite or make amendments to your will, call your attorney on the Axelrod team, and we will help you find the simplest, most cost-effective way to accomplish your goals.

Got Axelrod?

Whether you need a simple will or a complex estate plan, your attorney on the Axelrod team is prepared to help you accomplish your goals. Call your estate planning and probate attorney at Axelrod and Associates today at 843-353-3449 or complete our contact form to set up an initial consultation.

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Axelrod & Associates, P.A.
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