The Emergency "Vacation" Will
Category: Estate Planning
Having just gotten back from vacation (in case you were wondering where the blog went) I have been thinking about the not infrequent phone calls I get that go something like this “Help, I need a Will. I have 2 children and my wife and I are going on vacation in 5 days and we don’t have Wills!!!!”
Well, the first reaction (to be thought and not necessarily said to the prospective client) is – if you have children, why don’t you have a Will? A Will is the only place where you can name Guardians for minor children. In a Will you can create trusts to hold and manage assets passing to your children – minor or otherwise (Remember what you were like at 18/21? Would you give large sums of cash to your younger self?).
Of course, a Will isn’t a fun think to think about – it’s more of a necessity, like health insurance. And even though it is far safer to fly than drive, many people only think of the fact that life’s little necessity of a Will is missing when they are taking a long trip somewhere. Hence the emergency “Help!” phone calls.
What to do if you need a Will in a hurry? Get a referral to an attorney who does a lot of estate work. A good estate planning attorney can prepare a “temporary” Will for you on rather short notice. In this Will, you can expect to name Guardians (as well as Executors and Trustees) and set up a trust to hold in assets for your children. What you will likely NOT get is any kind of tax planning to save taxes when passing dollars to your children (remember (1) in New Jersey, if you and your spouse both die in short proximity to the other, it is likely that only one exemption of $675,000 will exist; all assets above that will be subject to estate taxes, and (2) life insurance death benefits are part of your taxable estate unless you have done planning to remove them from your estate). This type of planning takes review and analysis of your assets, which likely cannot be done under your time constraints.
The moral? While it is better to have some Will then no Will, it is best to have planning done in advance, not under pressure, so a will can be created that best meets your needs.