By now many have read some recent news about Taylor Simone Ledward, wife of Chadwick Boseman, the Black Panther star who suddenly passed away in August due to terminal cancer. According to reports, Ledward filed to become the administer of the Boseman estate, which includes property that is currently listed as “personal property” potentially totaling over $900,000. As his wife — the couple married earlier this year — Ledward could inherit most if not all of the Boseman estate. Although is has been reported that Boseman did create trusts for many assets, some assets remained outside of the trust, creating a need for probate court. Now, with probate being invoked to administer those assets, State law, instead of Boseman, will determine the distribution of those assets.
The news, perhaps, isn’t really news at all as it is very common for individuals of all walks of life (age, race, socio-economic status, and career) to have no will in place at all. In fact, studies show that 60% of the individuals reading this article do not have a valid plan. As we have very often said, it is important to let your wishes be known when it comes to your assets, and it needs to be expressed prior to your demise. But with social media now being at the forefront of breaking news, influencers such as Luvvie Ajayi Jones, the highly-acclaimed speaker and author of I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual, has shared with her millions of followers the importance of estate planning.
To follow her call to action, we’d like to take this time to help you get your estate plans “in order” and a “nudge to get started” with love. To be specific, we want to show you how to create a will and a trust that will leave no stone unturned and, without a shadow of a doubt, share your estate-planning wishes with your loved ones for them to follow upon your demise. First we’ll describe the make up of a will. We will then share the same for a trust. Finally, we will offer best practices that will help you make an informed decision when preparing both.
What is a will?
Let’s first clear up one major issue: a will is for probate court. It gives instruction for your chosen personal representative (f/k/a executor) and the distribution of your assets through the court process. A will DOES NOT help you avoid the probate process. A will is a legal document that clearly shares your wishes regarding the issuing of your assets, including your home, your wealth and other items with a financial value. Wills are also used to describe your plans for your children, their children, pets and anything else you’ve cherished throughout your life, but for the purpose of this article we will focus on financial interests.
When there is no will in place, courts and attorneys rely on state laws to determine who is in charge of your estate and who receives your assets. As a result, your desires might not be carried out and your heirs could be forced to deal with the stress of settling your estate affairs in addition to grieving your death. You can surely imagine the trauma that could ensue with being doubly stressed during what is already a trying time for your loved ones as they are coping with the loss of you. A judge may have to get involved in order to settle the estate, and oftentimes the decision handed down in a court of law leads to feuding among family members. Therefore, it is important to put a will in place now, while you’re able to create one, so that you can be in charge of what happens after you’re gone.
Wills can be effective in various ways, as it depends on how your will is designed. You should have an estate attorney assist you in creating the will that you want, and the document should be witnessed to avoid any future altering after your death.
What is a trust?
A trust is an arrangement between you and another party that allows someone, known as a trustee, to manage your assets upon your demise, on behalf of a beneficiary or a set of beneficiaries. The beneficiaries are those who will receive your assets according to your desires — usually they are your loved ones and charities. Trusts can be arranged in various ways, but they all have one thing in common: they direct the probate-free distribution of your assets according to the schedule of your choosing (think – over time for young children as an example).
One great aspect of a trust is that it usually avoids probate, which means your beneficiaries could access what you’ve left for them with out the delays and red tape of court. Trusts may also provide tax benefits, but you should consult an accountant, in addition to your trust attorney for the specifics in your state. Trusts, like a will, place the control of your estate in your hands, even after you’re gone. You lay out the terms of the trust, making it clear when distributions should be made, and to whom. Doing this helps you protect your loved ones and generations to come.
How can a will and a trust be done right?
Make sure that both estate planning tools reflect your desires, not those of someone else. This means witnesses and other trusted parties must be present for the creation or revision of any documents tied to your will and your trust. Don’t include unnecessary parties when executing your documents. Doing so could lead to fraudulent activities taking place with your estate after your demise, such as disinheriting loved ones that you have mentioned in the will or trust.
The best way to construct a will and a trust that will share your wishes exactly the way you’d like, is to contact an attorney who truly specializes in estate planning. It is important, though, that you act now while you’re alive and of sound mind. If you can read this, your next step should be to consult an estate attorney. In fact, make it a point to do so today! Our office can be of assistance to anyone throughout the United States as we are in touch with attorneys nationally who specialize in this area of law. If you are in Michigan, call us now to begin the process (734-707-3232). I know this is a bit more forward than normal but we are just saddened by the continued untimely deaths and consistent news of lacking plans. We want to change that!
Our hearts go out to the Boseman family. Now, let’s make the Black Panther proud by empowering ourselves with immediate planning, before it’s too late.