A Will provides the disposition of assets titled in your name to your chosen beneficiaries, who may or may not be your natural heirs. If nobody knows that you executed a Will, or if your Will cannot be found, or is hidden or destroyed, after your death, your Will does nothing.
Take Prince, for example… Did he leave a Will or didn’t he? Many who knew him say that he was a shrewd and smart businessman. How, then, is it possible that he did not plan for his own death? Even if he chose not to do any advanced estate and tax planning, signing a Will that provides who should administer his estate and who should receive his millions would have gone a long way to reduce expenses, litigation, and time involved in disposing of his assets.
But what if he did sign a Will, but nobody knew about it? What if one or more of those individuals who stand to inherit the Will are intentionally hiding it? (Note that in Illinois, willfully secreting a Will after the testator’s death is a Class 3 felony). In either case, Prince’s wishes would not be carried out.
If you want to avoid this outcome, be sure that you keep your original Will in a safe and secure location, and that your family members (and named executor and successor executors) know where it is and can access it after your death.
Better yet, you may wish to consider creating a revocable living trust, and then funding your trust with your assets during your life. Doing so will make it unlikely that your wishes will not be carried out after your death, because your accounts and property titles will specifically refer to the document which provides for the disposition of these accounts and property upon your death. Additionally, your wishes will remain private, known only to those beneficiaries named in your trust, rather than becoming public as is the case with a Will. A Will must be filed after your death and becomes public record.
If you have any questions or concerns about setting up a Will or updating your current Will please contact our estate planning attorneys at Kelleher + Holland today!