Simple Wills: What you don’t know will cost you (and your loved ones)

By: Nicholas A. Reister

We regularly get requests for “simple wills” from our clients. Perhaps our humility or our desires to feel “normal” lead us to think we only need something simple. Or, if you’re like many, you’d prefer to be a smart shopper and save money whenever possible. We wholeheartedly work to simplify our clients’ lives, but most people’s lives are far from simple.  Generally, a simple will should be inexpensive and address the following:

  1. Who will serve as Personal Representative (AKA “Executor”)
  2. Who will your assets go to upon your death
  3. Who will serve as guardian for your minor children
Sounds exactly what you’re looking for, right? Well, if you’re like the majority of the population, you’ll also
need to consider the following, which are often ignored, forgotten or unrecognized by individuals and which are not well addressed by simple wills:
  1. If you leave minor children or grandchildren, do you want them to have full control of their share of their inheritance on their 18th birthday? Do you remember your world and thought process when you turned 18? Most people shudder at the thought of trusting a substantial amount of assets to an 18-year-old. Unfortunately, a simple will can’t help you address this.
  2. Have you been divorced or remarried? Do you have children from other relationships? Simple wills aren’t particularly effective at protecting shares for spouses or children – whether they are yours, your spouse’s or both.
  3. Are you unmarried but in a committed relationship? Beware of provisions in the law called “family and spousal allowances” that could change how your estate passes to your loved ones despite the provisions in your simple will.
  4. Is divorce a risk for you or your heirs? Do you have loved ones who are disabled or otherwise benefitting from public assistance? Do your loved ones have a difficult time managing money, dealing with addiction or have a high-risk profession? Are your loved ones successful and affluent? A simple will won’t help you with any of these situations.
  5. Would you rather keep your affairs out of the reach of prying eyes? Do you have descendants or other relatives who you would prefer not receive part of your estate? A simple will won’t be much help here either because it will have to be administered through probate court where it will be accessible to the public.
All of these are normal concerns with potentially devastating effects – financially and emotionally – on your family and loved ones if they are not properly and expertly addressed.
The good news is that although your life and your family’s needs may not be as simple as you’d like to think, we can help. Affordably.  Life’s complicated issues can be addressed and made simple by a Smith Haughey estate planning attorney. For a fraction of the cost of addressing the undesired outcomes that often rise out of simple wills, we’ll help you form a plan custom fitted to your life. Your plan should address how your estate will be administered and distributed; who will help you and your family during life, sickness, disability and after death; address issues like charitable giving, supporting minor and disabled family members; and heirs who aren’t great at managing their money or affairs. Give us a call or visit us at and let us help you ease your worries and simplify your estate.