Do you have a valid and up-to-date Will? If not, now is the best time to get your affairs in order. Without a Will, you risk leaving behind a mess: your estate may not be administered in a timely fashion or by someone you would have selected, your property may not be distributed to beneficiaries you selected (and perhaps not in the most tax-advantageous manner), and you may not like who ends up being responsible for your minor children. So let’s talk about Wills, shall we?
1. What is a Will?
It’s not a contract. It’s not something that can bind your spouse. It’s an expression of your final wishes concerning your property and financial affairs when you die. It lets you name someone to be responsible for administering your estate. It allows you to make specific gifts of cash, real estate, and personal property to particular individuals. And it lets you name someone to be responsible for your minor children.
2. What if I don’t have a Will?
If you’re a dentist and you have a practice and you pass away without a Will, you are said to have died “intestate”. This is a problem. Most likely, a locum will need to enter the scene. This does not generally bode well for the team (i.e. staff and associates) or the patients. They need certainty and continuity. They want to see a new dentist enter. And they may abandon ship if it takes too long for the practice to be sold. What could cause the delay you ask? Well, if there is no Will, someone will need to apply to the court to be the Administrator of the Estate (without a Will). This could take some time as there may be infighting, delays, and problems with all of the paperwork (trust me, it’s a lot of paperwork). Finally, the Administrator may need to get all of the beneficiaries onside to sell the practice. The longer this takes, the more likely that the goodwill of the practice will start to drop (along with the overall purchase price).
3. What information do I need to complete my Will?
Things like: personal information (e.g. your name, age, city, etc.), who you want to name as your Estate Trustee (the person responsible for administering your estate), what specific gifts you want to make (e.g. cash, real estate, charitable, personal property, etc.), what is to happen with your leftover assets after specific gifts have been made, what age you want your children to receive their inheritance, and a lot more. You can go through the entire questionnaire and see a partial preview of your Will right now, so what are you waiting for?
4. What do I do when I’m done my Will?
After completing your Will, you want to make sure that your Estate Trustee knows where your Will is and has access to it. You should also update your Will every few years and when you experience a significant change in your life (e.g. birth, death, divorce, inheritance, new job, new property, etc.). You should also update your Will before you travel or go in for surgery.