It seems to me that a lot of focus around making a Will or Estate Planning is about adding complexity. For example, specialized tax planning strategies, complicated trusts, or other ways of “controlling from the grave” (to quote a phrase often used by one of my early mentors).
Although in some situations specialized tax and legal advice is necessary, more often than not, it may be appropriate just to “keep it simple.”
I am often approached by long-time clients for whom I have previously drafted Wills (according to their prior wishes and specifications) on the more complicated end of the spectrum, whom are now asking me to please undo their previously complex plan and just to “keep it simple.”
Unfortunately, this tends to occur after such a client has experienced the loss of a friend or family member, and where that friend’s estate administration was complicated, drawn-out, or expensive due to having complicated provisions or trusts in their Will. Often my client was themselves an Executor or Beneficiary of this friend’s more complicated estate. After experiencing first-hand the work, time, and cost that can go in to administer a more complex plan, they tell me “There’s no way I want my spouse and children to go through that when I pass away!”
Take for example a person who wants to leave some money specifically for their Grandchild’s education. Now, if we are talking about setting aside $1,000, it likely doesn’t make much sense to have a lot of “strings attached” to this gift in the Will. Doing so could result in disproportionately high costs or resources expended towards managing these funds for the Grandchild when perhaps a “keep it simple” approach would be better. On the other hand, setting aside $100,000 for their Grandchild’s education would certainly warrant more specific planning and trust provisions in the Will.
None of this is to say that a thorough Will and Estate Plan are not necessary or appropriate. On the contrary, I believe that everyone should have a well-drafted Will. The important thing is to strike an appropriate balance where the complexity of your Will is proportionate to the complexity of the assets, tax planning considerations, and family situation of the person making the Will.
A lawyer experienced in Will drafting and Estate Planning is an invaluable resource for helping you determine what level of complexity is appropriate to carry out your wishes… you may find that a “keep it simple” approach to your Will is best.
This article was written by:
Jason P. Mallory, of Mallory Law in Blenheim, is the recipient of the Margaret E. Rintoul Award in Estate Planning
*The comments in this article are not meant as legal opinions and readers are cautioned not to act on information provided without seeking specific legal advice with respect to their particular situation.