How do I know if my Will is adequate?

I’m 62, just retired. I’ve designated beneficiaries for my 401k and life insurance on federal government-specific forms. My Will simply leaves the “residue” of my estate to my siblings and mother. My only liability is my home, on which I still owe $196K. My Will is basically just leaving my personal property to my family, to be divided up or sold as they see fit. Is this Will adequate?

Asked on September 4, 2012 under Estate Planning, Virginia

Answers:

Catherine Blackburn / Blackburn Law Firm

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

If you are concerned about your will being adequate, I would consult an estate lawyer and find out for sure.  Your peace of mind is worth a consultation and many estate lawyers offer a free consultation.

Wills must be executed according to certain formalities which vary by state.  If your will meets these formalities, it is valid.  If it does not meet the formalities, it is not valid. 

If you appropriately designated beneficiaries for your 401k and life insurance, those people will receive the balance upon your death.  This will happen no matter what the will says, so be sure you want this result.

Leaving "the residue" of your estate in a will directs everything that is not specifically listed in the will.  If all your assets are listed in the will (except your 401k and life insurance), then what you describe is probably adequate.  I would still consult a lawyer to be sure.

You did not mention what happens to your home upon your death.  Do you have a joint name on the deed?  If not, it will pass according to your will.  If the will does not specifically mention the house, it will pass with "the residue" of your estate.

There are other reasons you might want to consult an estate or Elder Law attorney.  What will happen if you suffer a serious illness or injury?  Do you have a health care surrogate designation and living will?  If you cannot take care of your own bills and assets, do you have a power of attorney or trust?  I have seen young people severely disabled by an automobile crash or stroke.  Unless you have legal documents in place, it will be difficult, expensive, and perhaps impossible to create the best care plan for you.  It is worth the attorney's fees to make sure you have every document you might need to cover a catastrophic event.

I hope this assists you.


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