Wills and Estate Planning

How Complicated Does My Will Need to Be?

Read this article for examples of when a simple will or a complex will may be needed. Simple wills are an option when not leaving estate taxes for your loved ones.

A Simple Will or a Complex Will: Which Do You Need

Creating a will is a critical piece of the estate planning puzzle. You likely know that you need one, but how complex or simple should it be? The fact is, there are many situations where you might easily prepare your own will. However, this is largely dependent upon how complicated the division of your assets may be, the size of your estate, as well as whether or not you expect to owe taxes on your estate.

A simple will

According to Nolo.com, a simple will may be all you need if you're under the age of 50, in good health, and have no reason to be concerned about leaving estate taxes for your loved ones when you die. However, they note that you may need more than a basic will if one or more of the following applies to your situation:

  • You want a degree of certainty to control what happens to your property after you die
  • You have a special needs child or other individual that you wish to address in your estate plan
  • You have children from a prior marriage and would like to keep some level of peace between them and your current spouse
  • You feel that someone might contest your will. For example, claiming that you were not mentally competent at the time the will was written, or that the will was created under duress or by fraudulent means

A simple will is typically something you might write yourself. With this kind of do-it-yourself will, you can name your beneficiaries, determine how your property is to be divided among the surviving heirs, and designate a guardian for your minor children.

A Complex Will

Depending on your situation, you may want to consider having a complex will prepared by an estate planning attorney. You may be better suited for a complex will if:

  • Your assets are valuable enough that estate taxes will apply
  • You need to establish a special needs trust for a child with a disability or an aging parent
  • You want to set up a trust to ensure that your children receive a certain sum of money when they turn a particular age
  • You expect to accumulate additional assets over time
  • You have a previous spouse who may complicate your estate
  • You want to create a joint will with your spouse
  • You own a business

If you are in a situation where you have considerable assets or an extended family, or if you wish to set up specific estate instruments to help avoid probate or estate taxes, you may need to consider working with a qualified estate planning attorney who could help you with complex will preparation.

For more information on creating a will and estate planning, visit Protective's Estate Planning Learning Center.

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All Learning Center articles are general summaries that can be used when considering your financial future at various life stages. The information presented is for educational purposes and is meant to supplement other information specific to your situation. It is not intended as investment advice and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Protective Life or its subsidiaries.

Learning Center articles may describe services and financial products not offered by Protective Life or its subsidiaries. Descriptions of financial products contained in Learning Center articles are not intended to represent those offered by Protective Life or its subsidiaries.

Neither Protective Life nor its representatives offer legal or tax advice. We encourage you to consult with your financial adviser and legal or tax adviser regarding your individual situations before making investment, social security, retirement planning, and tax‐related decisions. For information about Protective Life and its products and services, visit www.protective.com.

Companies and organizations linked from Learning Center articles have no affiliation with Protective Life or its subsidiaries.

Creating a Will

Creating a will doesn't have to be that complicated, but there are certain things you need to know, such as whether or not you need a simple will that you can create yourself, or a more complex will that should be handled by an estate planning attorney. In many instances, your finances may be simple enough that you can write your will yourself or use an online source. But only you and your financial advisor and attorney can determine that for certain. This article is designed to help you get started. For more information, visit our learning center.

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