It is always recommended to begin Estate Planning as early as possible. For some, the emotion of planning for one’s death can be a challenge to overcome.  In my personal case as an Army Infantry Officer, it was a natural and required part of our “business” of being ready to deploy to war.  The chance of death is ubiquitous, and so certain things had to be put in order to have piece of mind in deploying. One of the most important parts of Estate Planning is in executing a last Will and Testament.  The good thing is that it is something that can and should be kept as simple as possible for multiple reasons.


        When clients come to be to provide counsel for their Wills, they sometimes have every individual piece of real and personal property designated to a specific beneficiary. The problem with attempting to much specificity with a Will is that property and personal changes are certain to occur after executing the Will.  For example, property is sold or transferred in the normal course of life.  Each time that happens, it can generate the need for new Will.  A codicil (amendment to the will) is another solution, but this will actually republish the Will and multiple codicils can make the Will confusing and potentially open to attack in court. 


         The other natural change in life is with those who are beneficiaries.  A hard fact of life is that relatives, including even children, sometimes die first.  If the Will does not specify “my natural children alive at the time of my death”, then the heirs of a child will split as beneficiaries.  Additionally, relationships can change over time.  Beyond the one third elective share to a spouse (outside of a prenuptial agreement to the contrary, a spouse is legally entitled to at least 1/3 of their spouse’s estate), you are not legally required to devise or bequeath any part of an estate to a child or other relative. A child or other relative can become a “black sheep” over time, and this could generate the need for another Will.


         Keeping a Will simple means considering making your spouse the 100% beneficiary, and potentially your children as alternates.  In that event, you would likely consider the spouse acting as a primary personal representative (PR, the administrator of the estate) and one or more children as alternate PR.  Additionally, to ensure certain keepsakes or family heirlooms go to specific individuals, you can reference a “memorandum” you will leave separate from the Will, and what is written on the Memorandum becomes incorporated into the Will when the estate is probated.  On this memo, you can designate the a certain person receives a certain piece of property.  For example, a son receiving a specific rifle. With this provision, you would not need to get a new Will for personal property and can change your mind over the years on those items.


         Always have a Will, but keep it simple.  Your loved ones will appreciate it.

Bill Connor Orangeburg Attorney Bill Connor received his Bachelor of Arts from The Citadel in 1990, and after serving for over a decade as an Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army, including three deployments to the Middle East, he received his Juris Doctorate from The University of South Carolina in 2005. In 2012, Bill was honored to receive an AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rating by Martindale-Hubbell®, the top peer rating for American lawyers. Receiving this rating at such an early point in his career is unheard of among lawyers.

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