What is a Will?
A Will is a written document that sets forth your instructions telling the probate court who will get your stuff at your death and who you select (your Executor) to ensure your wishes are carried out. If you die without a Will, your stuff will be distributed to the people the State of Connecticut specifies, even if this is contrary to your wishes. Additionally, without a Will, the local probate judge will dictate who is in control of your stuff. Most married couples do basic “I love your Wills”; where everything passes to their surviving spouse and then to their children at the surviving spouse’s death. “I love you wills” could have adverse estate tax consequences when the surviving spouse dies.
A properly drawn Will should have “stand by” language to protect underage or disabled beneficiaries. Most people do not want underage beneficiaries to be receiving large sums of money when they turn 18 years of age, which occurs in most basic Wills. Additionally, today many disabled people are receiving state or federal benefits. Naming a disabled beneficiary in your Will could instantaneously disqualify them from future state and federal benefits. A properly drafted Will should have a stand by Special Needs Trust so you can still leave your stuff to a disabled beneficiary without adversely affecting their state or federal aid. Lastly, a Will can include a trust at your death to provide protection of your stuff for your beneficiaries which would enable them to access your stuff without making your stuff available to their spouses in divorce, nursing homes, lawsuits, or creditors. However, a trust in your will requires the need to go through probate to be created and requires ongoing probate court review as long as the trust remains in existence.
A will does not avoid probate, rather it is your roadmap through the probate process.