5 Helpful Tips of Estate Planning so You Don’t Pull Your Hair Out

Nobody enjoys thinking about their mortality, and sorting through legal documents is not what most people would call a good time. This hesitation makes sorting through legal documents about your eventual death seem dangerously stressful and, perhaps, dull.

That is probably why half of us do not have a will of any kind.

Relax. We have got some tips that help take the stress out of preparing for your future.

Keep reading to learn five essential tips of estate planning.

Know Your Worth

The most essential first step of estate planning is doing an inventory of all your assets.

Your total estate worth is so much more than just land you own. Any retirement fund, life insurance plan, Roth IRA, stock investments, collector’s items, and even your debt count as part of your estate.

Keep a detailed account of all your debts and assets in a safe place with the rest of your estate planning documents. Wherever you decide to keep these documents, make sure your family can quickly get to them.

Lawyer Up

The next thing you will need is an estate planning attorney. They will be able to help you navigate things like property taxes and drawing up your will.

Speaking of attorneys… Identify who you want to have power of attorney over you medically and financially.

Okay, so having power of attorney does not make you a lawyer. But whoever you assign power of attorney will be able to make decisions for you if you become unable to make those decisions for yourself for any reason.

Ex: If you are rendered unconscious in an accident, someone needs to be able to give consent for critical medical procedures.

Where There is a Will…

Your living will and last will might be the most important parts of your estate planning.

living will is also called an advance directive. It gives detailed instructions for your medical and financial power of attorney, so they know how to meet your needs best while you are still alive.

Your last will and testament give detailed instructions for what to do immediately following your death.

Plan Your Funeral, So They Do Not Have To

One of the most helpful tips of estate planning is putting money aside for your funeral arrangements in advance.

Do you want to donate your organs to people who need them? Would you prefer to be buried, or cremated?

Spell out your preferences, so your family has less to worry about.

Trust Your Beneficiaries

You get to pass on everything you own to the people you love two different ways:

With a trust; this dictates exactly who gets your property without going through a public court. Your trust determines who gets your car, your house, etc.

The people you name as beneficiaries will inherit the assets you own that are not physical pieces of property; including, bank balances, stocks, investments, etc.

More Tips for Estate Planning

For even more helpful legal information and tips of estate planning, stay tuned for more updates on our blog.

Do not be shy. Ask for a consultation with one of our skilled legal professionals today.

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4 Reasons Why Choosing Beneficiaries is a Good Thing

Having a family is one of life’s greatest joys. There is so much to look forward to — graduation, marriage, grandkids. Of course, these things require a lot of financial planning like 529 savings plans for college, or trust funds.

One thing we hate to think about, however, is how to plan for our loved ones’ financial well-being when we pass on. One of the ways you can make sure that your loved ones are taken care of is to set up beneficiaries for things such as life insurance and your estate.

Want to learn more about choosing beneficiaries? We have got you covered. Read on to learn about the reasons for selecting beneficiaries!

It Gives You More Control

You have control over your financial assets now, why would you not want control over their distribution when you pass on? 

If you pass without having a will or beneficiaries set up, then it is ultimately up to your next of kin to decide how to divide up your assets. In the event that there is a dispute over who should get what, then it will be up to a judge to make that decision.

Choosing beneficiaries now ensures that you are in complete control of your assets.

Choosing Beneficiaries Makes Distribution of Assets Less Stressful

We want to think that our family will be able to divide up assets in a civil manner. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. The stress of the loss of a family member and dividing up their assets can do a lot of damage to relationships.

By pre-planning who gets what, your loved ones can avoid the stress and hurt feelings of dividing up your assets. 

Your Beneficiaries Can Avoid a Lengthy Probate Process

Probate is a notoriously long process by which the executor or administrator of the estate manages the assets of the estate to make sure that all assets are collected, debts are paid, and all property is distributed. Probate is more complicated when there is not a will, or an existing will needs verification.

Not all property must go through probate. Most states will allow a certain amount of your estate to get passed on to your loved ones without going through probate first. Life insurance policy payouts can bypass the probate process entirely so long as there are designated beneficiaries.

Peace of Mind

If nothing else, setting up beneficiaries will give you the peace of mind that you have done everything that you can to make sure your loved ones will continue to prosper, even if you pass.

Estate planning may not be a fun thing to think about, but it is still incredibly important if you want your loved ones to enjoy financial stability after you pass on. When it comes to estate planning, it is never too soon to get started.

Ready to Set Up Your Beneficiaries?

Choosing beneficiaries for your estate and insurance is an incredibly important step in planning for your family after you pass on. Not only does it give you control of who gets what portion of your policies and estate, but it also prevents tension among family members.

Ready to start planning for your family and loved ones after you pass on? We can help guide you through the process. Contact us today to see how we can help you!

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What Are the Duties of an Administrator of a Will?

The administrator of a will plays a vital role in terms of making sure the deceased’s wishes are carried out.

They are responsible for managing the estate as it goes through probate.

They must follow the guidelines stated within the will in terms of dividing up assets and making sure that any special instructions are adhered to.

An administrator has several duties as the will moves through probate.

Prepare the Estate

The first duty of an administrator has to do with preparing the estate. This includes gathering any necessary documentation, creating an inventory of any known assets, researching to discover if any assets may have been hidden or undeclared, and creating a list of expenses or creditors. Public notices must be posted to inform possible creditors that if they are owed money by the deceased that they must come forward and file a claim against the estate. The administrator must also deal with any correspondence or court-related matters associated with the preparation of the estate. They may also have to sell real estate and other pieces of property, if necessary. 

Pay Off Existing Debts

During probate, debts will be introduced and verified. Existing debts, such as hospital bills, funeral expenses, mortgages, and other bank loans, are tested and can be paid as soon as the funds are available to do so. Once public notices are posted, possible debtors have a specific amount of time (usually 60 days from the date of the posting) to come forward and file their claim. Each claim will be researched and, if proven to be substantiated, will be paid with funds from the estate. Possible heirs must also come forward within that time frame if they believe they are entitled to a percentage of the estate.

Divide the Remaining Assets

Once the assets have been gathered and all of the expenses paid, the rest of the assets will be divided up according to the instructions within the will. In most cases, family members will receive a percentage of what is left over. A will may also contain a list of special instructions. The list may contain items that have been set aside for specific individuals. The deceased may also have created a list of charities and specific donation amounts that are to be given to each one. The division of assets is usually declared as part of the reading of the will. 

Finalizing the Probate Case

The last step in the process is completing the probate case. This step involves making a statement that declares that all of the instructions of the will have been followed and that all expenses have been paid. The statement must also include a list of how the remaining assets were distributed. The administrator is also responsible for filing any tax documents and final declarations with the courts. They will continue to be responsible for the will until the court declares the case closed in probate court.

Call Indigo Family Law Today!

Being named the administrator of a will is a huge responsibility. It requires diligence in terms of making sure all assets are collected and inventoried. All expenses must be verified and paid according to the law, and remaining assets must be dispersed as noted in the will. An administrator will work hand in hand with the attorney who wrote the will if any legal situations arise during probate. Contact Indigo Family Law today if you need assistance working through administering a will.

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How Long Does a Case Stay in Probate Court?

Probate is a long and drawn-out process that must proceed according to the laws of each state. It is required that a complete inventory of the deceased’s assets be completed in a timely fashion. In most cases, this is approximately 90 days.

Notifying the Beneficiaries of an Estate

Typically, beneficiaries must be notified within 60 days of a probate hearing. This allows them to make arrangements for any inheritance taxes that may need to be paid. Public notices must also be posted to inform individuals who may have a right to a portion of the estate but not otherwise listed in the will or other legal documents. In most states, if a person believes they have a right to a portion of the estate, they only have a specific amount of time to contact the administrator of the estate in writing.

Creditors’ Claims on an Estate

Creditors must also notify the administrator of any claims that are owed to them by the deceased. In most states, the time frame to file these types of claims is limited to 30 days. Each state is different, however, and the timeframes are strictly enforced. For their claim to be considered, creditors must have valid documentation and receipts to offer support. Once the claim has been verified and substantiated, it will be paid as part of the estate’s expenses. Creditors can be notified in a variety of ways, including the public notices that are posted.

Dispersing the Assets of an Estate

All of these steps within the probate process can take several months to complete. All of the debts and expenses associated with the case must be paid before any of the assets can be distributed to the beneficiaries. Depending on the size and value of the estate, beneficiaries can expect to start receiving their inheritance between four and eight months after all of the expenses have been paid and other legal matters have been settled. If the estate is rather large and businesses are involved, the length of time it takes to complete the probate process can take several months. In some cases, it may take several years for a probate case to reach completion.

Contesting a Will

A probate case can be extended if a will is contested. If a dispute arises between two or more of the intended beneficiaries, specific steps will need to be taken to determine the validity of each of the beneficiary’s claims. While the administrator will attempt to stick to the will as much as possible, there will be times when a decision is made to “break the will” and alter how the deceased’s assets are distributed. This usually only occurs with estates that are rather large or that involve several businesses or assets. For a person to contest a will, they must inform the administrator in writing and provides reasons as to why they believe they should be included.

How to Get Help With Your Estate & Probate

Probate cases take time to resolve.

If you have questions about probate, wills, trusts, or any estate law, call the professional staff at Indigo Family Law.

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The Role of a Trustee in Your Family Trust

It may sound awkward, but many people find themselves being named as a trustee for the estate of a family member, loved one, or business partner and find themselves asking, “What is a trustee, what do they do, and how did I become one?”

If you have found yourself in this unenviable situation, not to worry ‒ we are here to help.

What Is a Trustee?

Investopedia defines a trustee as“A trustee is a person or firm that holds and administers property or assets for the benefit of a third party. A trustee may be appointed for a wide variety of purposes, such as in the case of a bankruptcy, for a charity, for a trust fund or certain types of retirement plans or pensions. Trustees are trusted to make decisions in the beneficiary’s best interests and often have a fiduciary responsibility to the trust beneficiaries.”

The Job of a Trustee

The responsibilities of a trustee include management of the assets that are identified within a trust. A lot of estate holders elect to act as their own trustee. This is a perfectly valid option. However, if the estate holder should become infirm or die unexpectedly, it is essential to have an estate plan set up in advance.  And this is likely what occurred to have you end up becoming a trustee.

Married couples often act as co-trustees, creating an automatic back-up policy in case one or the other becomes unable to manage a trust.

The Responsibilities of a Trustee

The most important thing for a trustee to keep in mind is that the items included in the trust are not their own. As the trustee, you are entrusted to the items in the trust and do not gain ownership of those items. A trustee’s job is to manage the assets within the trust in a manner that is in accordance with the best interests and wishes of the proper owner of those assets.

If this is at all confusing, you might think of a trustee as a guardian of the contents of a trust, but not the owner. It is similar to a security guard who protects a given property but does not own it.

The Do’s and Don’ts for a Trustee

There are five main do’s and don’ts for a trustee. These are just very basic things but will give you an idea of what your responsibilities as a trustee will be.

  • The Trustee must not mix trust assets with their assets. The trustee must always keep their checking accounts and investments separate from the assets of the trust.
  • The Trustee must not use assets contained in the trust for his or her benefit unless the owner authorizes the trustee to do so.
  • The Trustee must treat all trust beneficiaries equally; they may not favor any one beneficiary one over another (unless the owner of the trust allows it).
  • The trustee must ensure that trust assets are invested in a way that is both prudent and conservative, in such a way that will result in reasonable growth while exposing the assets to the minimum amount of risk.
  • The trustee is responsible for keeping full and accurate records, filing all necessary tax forms and making reports to beneficiaries as the trust requires.

Get Help As a Trustee

This may sound like a legal minefield to navigate. But do not worry; you do not have to manage the trust all by yourself. You can access the expertise of consultants, lawyers, and other professionals who will help you manage trust assets in a way that is both responsible and effective.

To learn more about the duties of a trustee, and get help managing your responsibilities, get in touch with the estate planning legal experts at Indigo Family Law today.

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3 Tips for a Paying a Low South Carolina Estate Tax

You love your family more than anything, and you want to ensure that they have every opportunity to thrive–even after you are gone.

Life happens in the blink of an eye. You have no way of knowing what will happen tomorrow, but you can take steps to protect your family in the future with your estate. 

Of course, it is not as simple as naming your family members as beneficiaries of your assets. You also have to deal with the South Carolina estate tax.

Here are three tips to help you sidestep the estate tax and ensure that your family gets the maximum benefit. 

Generation-Skipping

Generation-skipping, sometimes done via a generation-skipping trust, is when you transfer a portion of your estate assets to your grandchildren rather than passing the assets to your children. 

Typically, your assets are taxed twice on the way to your grandchildren: first, when they pass from you to your children (second generation), and again when your children later transfer them to their children (third generation). 

Generation-skipping sidesteps the intermediate tax. The downside, of course, is that your children cannot access assets that get designated to your grandchildren (which your children may not be happy about). 

Most people take a moderate approach. They designate as many assets to their children as they think they will need and elect the excess be apportioned to their grandchildren. 

Lifetime Gifts

If you are not entirely comfortable with generation-skipping, you can take a more proactive approach with lifetime gifts to your children and grandchildren.

This is precisely what it sounds like: rather than waiting for your assets to pass when you die, you directly gift part of your assets to your children and grandchildren. 

Every year, a person can make a gift of up to $12,000 without incurring a gift tax. If both you and your spouse give the maximum amount, you can collectively gift away $24,000 per year per recipient. This gift, in turn, reduces your taxable estate. 

It does require you to be comfortable giving away a portion of your assets while you are still alive–or have the financial bandwidth to do so. If you are worried about running out of money, though, this may not be the right choice for you, as it is inordinately difficult to reclaim this money once you have gifted it away.

Put Your Assets in a Trust

Ultimately, the only real way to protect your whole estate against taxes is to put it in a trust, though most people are wary of this option since it signs control of your assets over to someone else. 

First, keep in mind that there are many different types of trusts you can create, and you can designate almost anyone to manage the trust for you, including a family member. 

If you do decide to establish a trust, though, it is essential to work with an estate planner, as there are many rules and exemptions attached to trusts that you may not be aware of. 

Need Help Figuring Out South Carolina Estate Tax?

At Indigo Family Law, we know that family is the only thing that matters. We also know that time flies, especially for busy parents.  That is why we are here to help you figure out the South Carolina estate tax–or whatever else you might need.

If you would like to speak with a lawyer about your options, use our contact page to get in touch.

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7 Tips for Making a Will That Benefits Your Children

Did you know 60% of American adults do not have a will? That seems like a significant oversight for a document of such magnitude.

It is the one document that can prevent your estate from falling apart after you pass.

When making a will, there are a few key components to keep in mind. Here are seven tips that will benefit your children. 

Name Your Spouse as Guardian

Sure, this sounds like common sense. If one spouse dies, the other spouse will remain the guardian of the children. However, believe it or not, there have been cases where, when one spouse dies, an outside party makes a play for custody of the children. When this happens, it is up to a judge to decide where the children shall remain.

Name an Alternate Guardian

If the worst case scenario, both parents should die, or you do not have a spouse, you will want to have an alternate guardian in place. Who in your life is well-positioned to care for the children, provide for them, and love them? Think about that and put it down in writing.

Designate a Trustee

After the children’s future guardian is secured, it is time to consider the property. Name a trustee to manage your estate until the children become of legal age.

This person will have full control over the money, real estate, and any assets. So, make sure you trust this person beyond a shadow of a doubt. 

We often see the guardian go on also to become the trustee. But, this is not a hard and fast rule. You will want someone who is fiscally responsible and supremely trustworthy.

Pay Your Trustee

The person you select to guard your property will spend a lot of time and resources handling the estate’s affairs. As such, it might be nice to compensate them for all their efforts. 

This does not have to come in the form of assets through the will. Instead, you can set aside an amount to compensate them.

Each state has a set of provisions in their probate codes, indicating how much a guardian can be paid. Your attorney can guide you on local law. 

Consider a Family Trust

Before you dive into probate law, ask your attorney about a family trust. In some cases, a trust can help your loved ones avoid probate and even save money when it comes to inheritance taxes. Of course, this will depend largely on your unique situation. 

Consider Conditional Gifts

In your will, you can include gifts that come with a prerequisite. This will allow you to rest assured that some of your wishes are being granted before your children inherit the estate. For example, you can condition a gift after the children reach a certain age or graduate college. 

Appraise Your Property

While specific property values fluctuate i.e., homes and cars, you can have other items appraised. Perhaps you have certain antiques or heirlooms. Including these amounts in your court documents allows you to be as specific as possible. 

Making a Will for Your Children

Sure, it is hard to consider a world where you do not exist. But, you can do so much to tie up loose ends and make sure everyone is provided for even after you are gone.

Making a will is not the most straightforward task but, here at Indigo, we put the family back in family law. Contact us today!

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Fledgling Filers: When Is it Too Soon to Write a Will?

Over half of Americans do not have basic estate documents like a will, trust, or powers of attorney.  Are you one of them?

You may think that you are too young to write a will, but an unforeseen accident can leave your family heartbroken and struggling.

To prevent your assets winding up in probate, it is crucial to start drafting your will asap.

We talk about which life changes impact your will and whether you need to write one now.

Life Events That Impact Your Will

There are certain events in your life that affect your finances and your assets. If you have gone through any of these significant changes you should write or update your will.

  • Getting married
  • Having children
  • Purchasing a home
  • Buying a car, boat, RV, etc.
  • Starting a business

You should update or review your will every five years. This makes sure that your assets wind up where you want them after your death.

Think You Are Too Young?

In South Carolina, you can create a will once you turn eighteen and are no longer a minor. While no one wants to think about dying, it is better to prepare for anything that life brings. Unexpected accidents happen to people of all ages.

Do not be unprepared. Dying without a will means you have no control over who inherits your assets. 

* It’s especially important to have a will if you have children.

Other than the points mentioned above, there are a few more factors that necessitate writing a will.

If You Have an Inheritance or Business Assets

Even if you have your inheritance in a trust, you should include it in your will.

If you have recently started a business within the last few years, include those assets in your will. Be sure to state any business succession plan you may have. Also remember to think about royalties, copyrights, and patents.

You Have Pets

If you have a pet that you want to be well taken care of after you pass, you should include them in your will. Remembering them when writing your will ensures they are cared for if anything happens.

You Have a Family History of Mental Illness

A testator (the person writing the will) must be of sound mind. Certain illnesses may affect your ability to make important life choices. For this reason, it is a good idea to write your will while you are young.

How to Write a Will

Wondering how to write your will? You can do it yourself with a template, but you need two disinterested signatories without anything to gain from your will to sign as well.

You can also speak with a lawyer to discuss your estate plan rather than do it yourself. Getting the assistance of an estate planning attorney might be easier since you can be sure that the document is legally binding.

Make a list of all your assets and beneficiaries beforehand so you do not forget anything. Remember, you can always edit your will. In fact, you should do this every few years or after any major life change.

Write a Will Now to Avoid Problems Later

As long as you are over eighteen, you are never too young to write a will. Writing one now will protect your assets and your family after your death.

No one likes to think about dying, but having a will means you are prepared for the future. It assures your possessions do not go into court and makes sure no one argues over who gets what.

Are you ready to talk about writing your will? Contact us to schedule a consultation today.

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Neglect: An Introduction to Elder Law and How it Can Help You

In 2009, the Obama Administration started the Affordable Care Act. Within the Affordable Care Act is the Elder Justice Act. This act was to combat widespread nurse neglect and abuse of elders in America.

Over two million cases of elder abuse (Elder abuse occurs when there is any form of neglect or abuse on an individual over the years of 60) get reported annually, and it is estimated that as many as 10% of the elderly will experience some form of nurse neglect. 

If you are worried about a loved one, maybe even suspect elder abuse, find out everything you need to know about elder law right here.

How Does Elder Law Define Neglect?

There are many different forms of nurse neglect or even neglect in general of an elder. Physical abuse or mental distress is a severe form of nurse neglect.

Some elders in nursing homes are even subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation.

However, there are quieter forms of neglect that lead to immense emotional duress for the elder.

Exploitation of finances occurs against the elders frequently. It can happen by nurses and caregivers in private settings, or even in a hospital or care facility.

Unfortunately, many elders today are too ashamed to report elder neglect. Actor Mickey Rooney testified for the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging in 2011.

He did this after years of having his finances abused by family members. In 2011 he went on Capitol Hill, imploring Congress to make elder neglect a crime.

Today, the law provides for remedies and compensation to those experiencing elder neglect.

What are the Symptoms of Elder Neglect?

Elder law defines neglect as any means in which an elder’s rights to access services and needs are compromised. This neglect can happen at any time and in any way.

If an elder has finances that are draining, their ability to access funds for basic needs are compromised.

Family members or nurses may manipulate an elder patient into changing their estate and legacy plans. Their motive would be to have legacy plans changed to favor the abuser financially.

This is one potential symptom of elder neglect. If you are worried this could happen to someone you love, contact an estate planning lawyer to have airtight provisions in place for your loved one.

Elder neglect can also come in the form of actual physical abuse, or even withholding medications from the elder. Withholding food and basic hygiene needs can also be considered a form of elder neglect.

Elder neglect strips the individual of basic civil liberties.  It will ultimately impact their overall quality of life. It could also lead to further health problems, such as infection due to poor hygiene, or depression or anxiety.

Any elder experiencing mental health distress, or who are suffering from poor hygiene may be showing symptoms as a victim of elder neglect. Elders that are showing bruising without cause can also be showing signs.

Consult an Expert

There are millions of elders impacted by nurse neglect and abuse every year.  These cases of neglect include physical, financial, and verbal abuse.

Neglect on its own is defined by a failure to meet an elder’s basic life needs, from food to hygiene and even housing. However, neglect can also take the form of financial abuse, with as many as 5.2% of the elderly reporting financial abuse from a family member. Nurses and caregivers can also exploit finances, and this strips an elder of their rights to access basic needs.

If you are worried about an elder in your life, get legal help on elder law immediately. Contact Indigo Family Law today to determine if you have a claim of nurse neglect or abuse.

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Inscribing the Inheritance: 7 Things You Need to Include in Your Will

Are you afraid of where all your stuff will go when you are gone?

No one wants to think about writing a will, but it is something that you have to come to terms with as you age. It is best to get it out of the way so you can move on and focus on living your best life.

If you do not know what to include in your will, we are here to help. It can get a little overwhelming deciding what to leave to whom when you die, but it is better to make this decision yourself than to leave it to your family to argue over when you are gone.

Here are the seven things you absolutely need to include in your will.

Name an Executor

You should always name an executor to enact the things that you have written out in your will. This person will take the necessary measures to inform your beneficiaries of what you have left to them and see that they get it without any trouble.

It is good practice to name a backup executor, in the event of your primary executor being unable to complete the task for some reason.

Name Beneficiaries to Your Property

Your “property” is anything that falls under personal property, real estate, or cash.

Depending on what your relations and business dealings are, you would typically leave a certain percentage of these things to different family members, friends, business partners, or organizations. These are your beneficiaries.

If you are feeling particularly generous, you can name a charitable organization as one of your beneficiaries as well.

Name Alternate Beneficiaries

Another good thing to do is to name alternate beneficiaries in the event of the death of your primary beneficiary.

For example, you name your friend as one of your beneficiaries. If they die before you, then whoever they have designated as their beneficiary will inherit what you left your friend. To avoid this, you need to name an alternate beneficiary.

Directions on How to Divide Your Assets

Your will should thoroughly describe how your assets are to be divided. If you are leaving property to one of your children, it should note which piece of property they are receiving.

You can also specify whether an asset is to be given to an individual or sold for cash value and provided to one or multiple individuals.

Directions on Business Asset Allocation

If you have any business assets, treat these separately from your personal assets. Business assets might include cash in a business account, stocks that help fund your business, and any property that was purchased for business use.

If you decide not to name a business partner beneficiary to these things, make sure that you clarify very specifically who these things are to go to to avoid any arguments.

Debts, Expenses, Taxes

Describe specifically how your debts and taxes are to be paid, in addition to your funeral expenses. If you intend for these to be paid from a specific source, like a bank account, then write that in the will to avoid any confusion over how these things should be settled.

Name a Guardian In Your Will

Most importantly, if you are a parent to a young child or children, you must name a guardian. Naming a guardian can be tricky if you are in a complicated parental situation, but you still need to nominate someone to take after your young kids in the event of your death.

Ideally, this will be your partner, but could also be a close relative or friend that your child is familiar with.

Do Not Wait Too Long

There is no reason to wait to write your will. The sooner that you get it done, the sooner you can move on with your life. It allows you to protect yourself, your spouse, your kids, and help out your friends and business partners in the event of your death.

If you do not do it, chaos will ensue.

For any legal queries relating to your last will and testament, contact Indigo Family Law, South Carolina’s personal family lawyers.

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