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, 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.