On May 16, in a post titled “Will planning in Palm Beach County: some things to remember,” we told you about some important things to recall alongside the will drafting process. In addition to those things, new reports indicate that closer attention to the will planning process may be beneficial to estate plans. Palm Beach County residents who are considering drafting a will may find that there are several key things to consider as they plan their will and the accompanying documents.

Many people believe that their assets will automatically transfer to their spouse if they do not have a will. Unfortunately, that is not always true. When someone dies without a will in place, the assets of an estate are distributed according to the state’s intestacy laws. Naturally, for many families this can be a deeply emotional time and having someone outside the sphere of trust overseeing the distribution of their loved one’s assets may be unsettling.

One way to protect assets for distribution after death is by ensuring that the will is properly drafted. Any temptation to do this alone is best resisted. There are websites and do-it-yourself kits available, but most experts believe that these options do not adequately consider the individual nuances that vary from state to state, and from case to case. In addition, a do-it-yourself will may not be properly finalized, which could lead to it being deemed invalid.

Once the will planning process has begun, the next step is to ensure that all assets are inventoried. Individuals should consider traditional, biological and digital assets in their inventory. While considering assets, individuals who are married should be aware that property jointly owned between spouses is not in the traditional scope of a will. These assets are often distributed to those who are legally surviving owners, rather than those listed in a will. Nevertheless, the best approach is to review all assets in consultation with a professional in order to devise an estate plan that fits the particular circumstances.

Will planning often goes beyond the scope of determining simply who-gets-what. In addition to the items listed above, individuals should carefully consider the selection of trustees and guardians, as well as heirs and beneficiaries. In most areas of estate planning, Palm Beach County residents will find that taking the right steps to carefully and thoughtfully plan their estate typically pays important dividends.