Jamie Ryan Ryke Esq.
The Law Offices Of www.SavedMe.com
24725 West Twelve Mile Road Suite 110
Southfield, MI 48034
You may find that over your lifetime you accrue
a wide variety of assets. These assets can include
property, land, company shares, businesses,
cash, bank accounts, artwork, jewelry, cars
and basically anything else that you own. Obviously,
whilst you are alive, these material things
are put to good use.
However, what happens to them after you die?
Well, that is basically up to you – they
are your assets and you decide who gets them
upon your death.
This is where a will comes in:
A will is a simple document that outlines what
your assets are and whom you want them to go
to. This is a legal document, which will be
used in probate after your demise to ensure
that your assets go to the rightful beneficiaries.
A will can be made by anybody over the age of
eighteen that is of sound mind, but must be
witnessed. The state law will determine how
many witnesses you need, and you must ensure
that the witnesses are not beneficiaries of
the will in any way.
Many people never get around to making a will,
and when they die the courts end up dealing
with any assets, which are then distributed
according to the state laws.
Normally an executor is appointed, and this
person will deal with the disbursement of assets
under the supervision of the probate court.
If there is no executor, the probate court will
appoint an estate administrator to deal with
the distribution of assets. If you have no beneficiaries
or relation and have not made a will, it is
possible that all of your assets will be claimed
by the state.
When you make a will you will need to list all
of your assets. You should also list any outstanding
debts that you have. You can then go on to make
a list of all beneficiaries, and decide who
should receive what. All of the outstanding
debts on your will are paid off upon your debt,
and the remaining assets are distributed in
accordance to your wishes. If there are any
items not specifically listed on your will,
they are distributed by the courts in accordance
to the law of the state. If you don’t
wish for this to happen, you should include
a clause that leaves the remainder of your estate
to a specific person of your choice. You should
also list your beneficiaries by full name and
relationship to avoid any confusion when it
comes to the reading of the will and the disbursement
Should any circumstances in your life change,
such as the birth of a grandchild or child or
the acquisition of new assets, you may wish
to change your will. It is important that you
ensure that your old will is destroyed once
you have made up a new document and had it witnessed.
Your will is a document that will be of paramount
importance after your death, particularly if
you have a lot of material assets. It is therefore
important that you keep it in a safe place,
and let trusted family members and your lawyer
know where it can be found.
If you have any assets that have contractual
beneficiaries, such as a house with a joint
mortgage or a joint bank account, these would
not be dealt with through a will because they
already have a beneficiary, which is the joint
owner. However, all other assets should be listed
on the document to ensure that they go to the
desired beneficiary after your death.
Completing a living will, otherwise known as an Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD), is important for all individuals over 18 years of age as they may unexpectedly be in a position where they cannot speak for themselves, such as an accident or severe illness. For more information on when and how to make these important medical decisions, click here.
Ten things you need to know about Wills & Trusts
- A living will is a legal document that declares your wishes regarding the use of life-sustaining treatment should you become incapacitated from a terminal illness or a persistent/permanent vegetative state.
- A living will, in most cases, only becomes effective when you are permanently unconscious or terminally ill and unable to communicate your wishes regarding life-sustaining treatment.
- A living will cannot be revoked by anybody but you, and you can change it anytime while you have mental-competency/capacity.
- Most states have laws providing that a living will's directives may not be followed if you are pregnant.
- A living will authorizes doctors to follow the instructions contained in the document once a determination of incapacity is made.
- Each state has specific laws dictating how a living will is to be executed. Most states provide that any competent person eighteen years of age or older can make a living will by signing it in front of two or more witnesses (who also sign the document attesting that the document was signed in their presence). Usually the witnesses cannot be related to you, and they should not be beneficiaries of your estate or have financial responsibilities for your medical care.
- A living will generally only avoids treatment when it is determined that recovery is hopeless and any treatment would only prolong the dying process. Your doctor must first determine if your prognosis fits those criteria before your living will has any effect on medical decisions.
- Because it is difficult to anticipate every medical condition you may face, it is often a good idea to designate an agent to act as a substitute healthcare decision-maker for you. A Health Care Power of Attorney is a document that designates an agent to make healthcare decisions for an individual. It is different from a living will in that a living will does not appoint anyone to make medical decisions for you. A living will is only a partial safety net in the event there is nobody to assume the duties of making medical decisions on your behalf under your Health Care Power of Attorney.
- Many states have laws that protect healthcare providers when they use good faith in following stipulations in a valid living will. Some statutes impose criminal penalties on those who act in bad faith.
- A living will is a simple form that may be purchased in most office supply stores. Nevertheless, as part of developing an overall estate plan, you should have your attorney review this document. Failing to properly execute a living will means that it will not be recognized and your wishes will not be carried out.
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