Is Having A Will Enough To Protect Me?

The Connelly Law Offices booth at the Senior Expo in Rhode Island on Saturday, October 21, 2017. From left to right - Alycia Drake, Financial Coordinator, RJ Connelly, III, Certified Elder Law Attorney and Christina Howland, Senior Paralegal.

This past weekend, the Connelly Law team had a booth at the Life Expo for Seniors and Baby Boomers at the Twin River Casino Event Center in Lincoln, Rhode Island. The event, sponsored by the Providence Journal and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island, featured products and services specifically for the senior population. Entertainment on hand included Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra impersonators, workshops on senior issues and an appearance by Rhode Island’s own Jeffrey Osbourne, rhythm and blues singer extraordinaire.

Jeffrey Osbourne delights the thousands in attendance at the Life Expo event held at the Twin River Event Center in Lincoln, Rhode Island. Video by the Providence Journal.

For my team and I, we were able to meet many of our clients who attended the event and got the chance to answer questions about elder law for hundreds more who stopped by our booth. By far, the most asked question we received was, “Is having a will enough to protect me and my loved ones?”

Given that, I decided to provide some information on a question that so many asked.

A will is a good foundation for your estate plan because it outlines your wishes, directs how your personal belongings with be disposed of and allows you to designate guardians. Unfortunately, a will does little to address how taxes will affect your estate and in the long run can cost you much more than peace of mind and money.

If you pass away with just a will in place, the following may occur;

  1. Your financial accounts could be frozen

  2. The probate process could be lengthy with your assets subject to the claims of heirs and creditors

  3. Probate and settlement costs could significantly decrease the size of your estate

  4. The will is a public document and open for all to see

  5. Wills are subject to varying interpretations from state to state

  6. The will may not control all your property

  7. Your will could be contested

  8. Assets left to a spouse are subject to federal estate tax upon their death and state inheritance taxes may also come into play

  9. Should you become incapacitated or incompetent, a will alone does not provide provisions for your care.

I strongly urge that a will be part of an overall estate plan, which should include the following:

  • Trusts – a place to put your assets that will help your heirs avoid the time and expense of the probate process. A trust also prevents your heirs from squandering the money

  • Powers of attorney – these powers allow someone to act in your behalf. A durable power of attorney will remain in effect even if you should become incompetent

  • Healthcare Proxy – this authorizes someone to make medical decisions for you if you cannot make them yourself.

  • Living will – this instrument states whether or not you want life-sustaining efforts to occur

However, if you are comfortable with just a will in place, make sure that you review this document periodically as many things change over time, especially as our children grow and make their own lives and families. There were many people we met yesterday who stated that they had their will drawn up many years ago but haven't read it since.

A will may need revision if you;

  1. Move to another state

  2. Your financial situation changes in a significant way (retirement or gaining a large amount of money)

  3. If you add another dependent such as another child or you provide care for someone such as an aging parent

  4. You make a change in your life insurance

  5. Your heirs have a change in marital status, have children or die

  6. You acquire property in another state

  7. You inherit of purchase property

  8. You have a significant increase in the value of your property

  9. The tax laws change.

I strongly believe that in a time where pensions have all but disappeared as a retirement option, it is important that businesses provide their employees with information on estate planning as part of their overall retirement plan. Connelly Law offers community workshops, free of charge, to those organizations who wish to provide this information to their employees or clients in the community. You can view what we offer by clicking on the link below:

Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. Free Community Workshops

My main desire is that you keep and protect as much of your assets as you can. You worked hard for it and you deserve to keep it and pass it on according to your wishes. Our team of elder law and financial experts can help you set up a plan that has your best interests at heart.

Attorney Connelly practices in the area of elder law. This area of law involves Medicaid planning and asset protection advice for those individuals entering nursing homes, planning for the possibility of disability through the use of powers of attorney for the both health care and finances, guardianship, estate planning, probate and estate administration, preparation of wills, living trusts and special or supplemental needs trusts. He represents clients primarily in the states of Rhode Island, Connecticut and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He was certified as an Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF) in 2008. Attorney Connelly is licensed to practice before the Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Federal Bars.

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