Wills: Last Will and Testament in Connecticut
A last will and testament, more commonly referred to as just a will, is a legal document that addresses how property is to be divided, how debts are to be paid, as well as other things, at the time of your death. A last will and testament is an important document to create as part of your comprehensive estate plan, and is something you should think about even if you are not elderly, rich, or the parent of a minor child.
Elements of a Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament can be used to address many issues related to your estate. Things that you can include in a last will and testament include instruction regarding:
• How any existing debts that you have should be paid at the time of death;
• What should become of a business at the time of your death;
• How property should be divided;
• What should be done with certain family heirlooms, land, etc.;
• If you would like to make any donations to charities, businesses, or organizations;
• Who should act as the guardian of any minor children you have;
• Who should care for any pets you have at the time of your death; and
• Who will be the executor of your will, which is the person who is responsible for carrying out the terms of your will.
What Cannot Be Included in a Connecticut Last Will and Testament?
A will cannot be used to address all elements of your estate, and the potential number of wishes you have for your belongings when you die. For example, you cannot use a will to:
• Distribute property that is not owed solely by you. For example, if you and your spouse both own a house, you cannot declare that the home should be sold, and the proceeds donated to charity.
• Distribute or make decisions about any property that is held in a trust.
• Leave certain parties out of your will. For example, while you are free to distribute property as you wish upon your death, laws in Connecticut require that a surviving spouse receive a statutory share of property, which is one-third the value of all of the property passing under a will.
• Leave funds for anything that is not permitted by the law.
Why Do I Need a Last Will and Testament?
Many people, especially those who are not of an old age, do not have children, or are not especially wealthy wonder why they need a will, and because of this may refrain from creating one. However, no matter who you are, your age, or your income level, creating a last will and testament is an important component of preparing for death, especially if that death is unexpected. If you do not have a will at the time of your death, your estate will be divided per the laws of intestate succession, and you will have no say over what becomes of your property.
As found in Connecticut Code Section 45a-437, a surviving spouse will inherit the entirety of an estate if there are no surviving parents nor children of the deceased; children will inherit everything if there is no surviving spouse; a spouse will inherit the first $100,000 of an estate, plus ½ of the remaining balance if there are children; and a spouse will inherit the first $100,000 of an estate, plus ¾ of the balance, and parents will receive everything else if the deceased has both a surviving spouse and surviving parents. While this may sound great to you, it could be very different from what you would choose.
In addition to ensuring that your property and assets are divided per your desires, you may also use a will to leave certain items to a certain member of your family, friend, or organization – something that intestacy laws do not address. For example, if you have jewelry that was passed down by your great, great grandmother, you may want to ensure that this is left to your great, great grandchild.
Perhaps most importantly for those who are parents of minor children, a will can be used to name a guardian of your child, which can be extremely comforting. If you die without first appointing a guardian, the court will determine who the guardian will be, which may be a lengthy process, and one that results in a named guardian whom you would not have selected.
The Process of Forming a Last Will and Testament
The benefits of creating a last will and testament are obvious. Fortunately, a last will and testament is one of the easier legal documents to create, and can be done quickly, and can be changed at any time throughout the course of your life. While you can use online templates that are downloadable from the internet to create a will, it is highly recommended that you seek legal counsel to draft your will, or at the very least have your will reviewed by a legal professional before it is finalized.
How Our Experienced Connecticut Estate Planning Attorneys Can Help
At The Upton Law Firm, our experienced Connecticut estate planning attorneys can help you to understand your financial picture, and what will likely happen to your property and assets if you die without a will. From there, we can help you to create a will that outlines your exact wishes for your property, and ensures your beneficiaries/family members are provided for.
We provide competent estate planning services for clients throughout Connecticut. Initial consultations are free of charge.