How Financial Advisors Will Guide You Through the Will Process

The death of a loved one, whether expected or not, can be a trying experience for the entire family. This is especially true when both your parents have finally passed on. This is typically the time where their estate and will is distributed. But it can also be a highly emotionally charged time when the will disbursements don’t seem fair to one or more of the surviving children and/or heirs. All too often the will becomes contested pitting sibling against sibling.

Says a professional wills attorney, there can be several different contested will scenarios depending on how well the document was set up.  In some cases will contests don’t arrive through any intentional wrongful actions of the people who are inheriting under the provisions of the will. But instead from instances where the will’s language is vague or the testator might have openly expressed certain hope and wishes in his life, but those wishes went ignored in the will.

This is why financial advisors insist on the importance of setting up a rock solid will long before your death so that any vague language becomes crystal clear and concise. According to a new report, lots of clients don’t want to contemplate the consequences of failing to act on their estate and/or will. It’s not all that difficult to imagine why. After all, no one like to think about the inevitability of dying one day or even today for that matter.

But a financial advisor’s job is to help guide a person through the proper “creation, maintenance and execution” of their will. In fact, it’s one of the most important services an advisor can provide.

Theoretically speaking financial advisors (who are not lawyers by the way), will help to ensure that their client’s intentions are communicated as clearly and effectively as possible “to those charged with implementing their wishes.”

Contested Wills

It’s a sad fact that every year thousands of wills become contested. This disruption of a client’s final wishes and the unnecessary chaos that’s injected into the lives of family members and even friends is a problem that can be avoided.

That said, advisors will want to take four critical steps when it comes to creating a will: error and challenge prevention, planning, possessions, and of course, taxation (the government gets its cut when you die)

Financial advisors do no provide legal advice. But they facilitate conversations between their clients and their lawyers.

Essentials of Will Planning

The experts attest that a will does not have be a complicated document. But putting the process off can be dangerous. Too many clients put off making postmortem decisions until it’s way too late. This will only upend the client’s intentions and/or delay the settlement of their estate.

A 2021 report states that it can take up to a year and a half on average to settle an estate that doesn’t come with a will. That’s five months longer than an estate that’s backed by a rock solid will.

You have to ask yourself, can your future beneficiaries wait 16 months to receive the assets they are due? Even if they aren’t dependent on receiving the assets, the timing and uncertainty of an estate settlement can be completely avoided by some basic direction from the financial advisor in concert with the legal advisor.

Also, estates that are considered “intestate” or minus a valid will, will usually be subject to the state determining how the assets are divided. The determinations might seem fair on the surface, but they might not serve the clients or the beneficiaries intentions or hopes.

Will Recipients and Will Bequests

Making certain an advisor’s client’s executor and trustee selections are appropriate is perhaps the one key step in ensuring that “a will accurately reflects their wishes.” The right executor will simplify complicated situations and be able to determine how to best navigate the overall estate and, in the end, carry out the client’s intentions.

This requires giving sufficient permission for the chosen executor to make the right decisions on behalf of the estate. This creates less complications.

Anti-Lapse Provisions

The will must include anti-lapse provisions which are designed to be enacted when the heir has died. The anti-lapse provision prevents deceased heirs from becoming disinherited from their allotted bequest just because their dead.

For instance, if a child predeceases a parent, the anti-lapse provisions will legally prevent the child’s spouse and/or family from becoming automatically disinherited.