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So far in our Estate Plan Series, you have established a solid foundation with your living trust. While you have officially “broken ground,” there are still some pieces that need to be put into place to complete your plan. Continuing with our home building analogy, think of drafting a will as similar to choosing a general contractor; you will choose a key person to carry out some very important tasks and ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.
Recall from last week that a will may be used to communicate your wishes related to managing and transferring property on your death or incapacity, but, in states like California, Arizona, and Nevada where probate is difficult and assets are primarily distributed through a trust, you still need a will for other important reasons. Your will nominates guardians for your children, an executor to pour assets left out of the trust into the trust and a conservator to act on your incapacity. Without a will, the court will decide who is best fit to act as guardian for your children, how assets not directed by beneficiary designation or trust will pass to survivors and who will act as your conservator.
In an effort to avoid an awkward scene similar to the one in the movie Life as We Know It, be sure to ask those you want to serve as key players if they are willing to take on the responsibility and provide them with copies of key documents appointing them to act. Just as clearly as your contractor knows what is expected of him, so should your loved ones know what is expected of them.