The Difference Between Estate Plans and Wills

There will come a time in your life when you realize you should plan for its end. As you grow older, retire, and scale down some of your belongings it might occur to you to draft a will so certain possessions with sentimental or monetary value are bequeathed to the people you designate. While a will is essential in helping your family fulfill your final wishes, it’s also beneficial to have an estate plan in place.

You might ask, aren’t they the same thing? A will is part of an estate plan, but a whole plan involves much more.

So you may ask, is an estate plan necessary? Isn’t a will enough? It’s true wills are used to help executors distribute assets to surviving relatives and organizations, but an estate plan is not the same thing. Let’s explore the main differences.

When you compose a will, you direct the executor to parse out your remaining liquid assets, property, and possessions to your designated beneficiaries. You may wish to leave your college or a favorite charity a sum of money, bequeath your home to your children, and leave jewelry or other valuables to grandchildren and friends. If you leave behind minor children, your will can also specify instructions for their care, including money set aside for their needs and the appointment of a guardian. After you die, your will is passed through probate, meaning a court of law will confirm its validity and ensure your wishes are satisfied. Should somebody contest your will, claiming they are entitled to some or more of your assets, a court will decide the matter.

An estate plan, however, does more than a will because it considers the distribution of money and property during your lifetime. Should you become unable to see to your own needs, an estate plan can help make sure you continue gifting to children or grandchildren, designate property for use by family or charitable organizations, and arrange for your care. An estate plan also helps you strategize the best way to manage assets now and then transfer them at your death. For example, if you own rental property but don’t want to manage it, you can give authority to a child to do this for you. If you want that child to own the property at your death, an estate planning attorney can prepare a transfer on death deed.

It’s important to note that you need not be worth millions to have a will and estate plan in place. Even if you own a modest home and have only a few thousand dollars in the bank, it’s wise to prepare for your final years so relatives and friends do not squabble over your care and last wishes. An estate plan takes care of how you will live your final days and how you wish to disburse money and property while you’re alive, and a will sees to the distribution of your assets after you are gone. If you have questions about setting up an estate plan or even if you chose only to create a will, then you should consult with an attorney who specializes in elder law and probate. An attorney can assist you in preparing for life now and in the future, and seeing that your legacy is fulfilled.

Contact Promise Law in Hampton, Virginia at 757-690-2470, or contact us online, to discuss any additional questions you may have regarding estate planning or wills.