Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Why You May Not Need a Will

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Why You May Not Need a Will

Article excerpt

"I thought everyone needed a will or all of your money and assets go to the state?"

Consider the most common question posed to us by new clients, family members or just general inquiries to the firm. It goes something like this: "I haven't done a will since the kids were little. I think I need a new will. How much do yinz charge for that?" The answer, of course, is "it depends."

Some things may well have changed since the kids were little (and, they may no longer be kids!). The Last Will and Testament is simply a document, or a tool used to achieve the goal of distributing property owned by the decedent in her/his sole name at death.

Decades ago, the will was the primary tool to accomplish a client's estate planning goals. However, as the children have grown and the "brick" phone became the "smartphone," so, too, have estate planning tools. Thus, the key is to focus on the plan, not the tool(s), as once the appropriate plan is created, the tools can be selected for their unique purposes.

Think how things have changed that may now make the will somewhat obsolete:

1. Many of our clients from the Greatest Generation arrive in our offices with CDs, savings bonds and cash bank accounts. However, the Baby Boomers (and generations X through ZZ) will carry the majority of their life savings in qualified investment accounts plans that are designed to offer individuals added tax benefits on top of their regular retirement plans, such as IRAs and 401(k) plans.

With this substantial shift to qualified plans, using a will to direct your IRA would be tax suicide (as well as subjecting it to probate unnecessarily). Think about which of your assets really need to be directed via a will once you remove the value of qualified investments. In addition, it is often difficult to set up a trust through a will to accept qualified investments.

2. "DDBB" - That's the acronym we've coined to describe four troubling situations: Death, Divorce, Bankruptcy and Bad decisions; and we're talking about the kids and grandkids. Once again, with the significant amount of qualified funds at risk, traditional planning using the will as the only tool just won't be able to address the issues. …

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