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Difference Between a Simple and Complex Will



Deciding whether to write a simple will or have a complex will largely depends on your estate and how you would like to leave your property. Other factors include whether you have a trust established or expect to owe estate taxes at your death.

Creating a Simple Will

You could write your own will if you expect few issues when you pass away regarding the distribution of your estate and merely want to pass your property in a clear and uncomplicated fashion. A simple will may be sufficient if:

  • You are under 50 years of age.
  • Your assets are few or valued under a certain amount.
  • You have no children from previous marriages.
  • You do not expect anyone to contest the will based on fraud, duress or lack of mental competency.

Your simple will can name your beneficiaries, determine how your property is apportioned among the surviving heirs, and designate a guardian for your minor children.

A Complex Will

In other circumstances, you may want to consider having a complex will prepared for you by a trusts and estates attorney. A complex will may be more appropriate if:

  • Your assets are valuable enough that estate taxes will apply.
  • You wish to establish a special needs trust for a child with a disability.
  • You want to set up a trust so that your children receive a certain sum of money at a particular age.
  • You expect to accumulate more assets.
  • You have a previous spouse.
  • You want to create a joint will with your spouse.
  • You own a business.

For example, you can put your assets into a trust, but you may want to have a will with a "pour-over will," which is designed to pour your assets into the trust if they were not transferred to the trust before you passed away. In this manner, the assets that should have gone into the trust are transferred after death and then distributed pursuant to the terms of the living trust.

In any situation where you have considerable assets or a large family, or if you wish to set up estate instruments to avoid probate or tax considerations, contact a trusts and estates attorney to properly advise you.