Montague, Pittman & Varnado, P.A.

MPV Law Blog

What You Need to Know About Wills and Estates

Monday, August 11, 2014

Many people ask the question whether they need a will or basic estate planning.  The answer is more often than not a resounding yes.  It is common for most people to put off drafting a will or discussing estate planning because it makes one think of passing away, but as it is often said, “the only things that are certain in life are death and taxes.”  It is extremely important for you and your loved ones that you have a will.

A will is an instrument that will direct a person (or sometimes an entity) how to dispose of your assets at the time of your death.  In Mississippi, if an individual dies without a will, he or she is said to die intestate.  In the case of intestacy, a person’s assets are passed down through the laws of intestate succession.  Therefore, your assets pass to children, grandchildren, your spouse, and other family members depending on who is alive at the time of your death.  There are several pitfalls to intestacy and intestate succession.  First, a majority, if not all, of your assets must pass through the probate process.  The probate process allows any creditors you may have at the time of your death to make a claim against your assets.  Next, intestate succession may cause your family to spend a larger sum of money to probate your estate.  Most importantly, intestate succession takes all decisions out of your hands as to which persons get which assets.  In the end, dying intestate will most likely decrease the size of your estate that is passed to your loved ones and strip of you any opportunity to determine the final distribution of your assets.

By drafting a will, you may avoid these problems.  A will allows an individual to dictate the proper disposal of her is or her assets making the probate process efficient and less expensive.  Furthermore, an individual may feel comfortable and confident that when he or she passes, all of his or her assets are transferred to the appropriate beneficiary. 

Some assets an individual possesses may also be structured to fully avoid the probate process which in turn evades creditors' reach.  Two assets in this category are land and financial accounts.  In the case of land, an individual may choose to deed the land to a family member (or any individual) and reserve a life estate.  The individual retains ownership of the land until the time of his death when it automatically passes to the intended individual.  The life estate method bypasses any probate proceedings.  Next, a bank account may be titled in such a way that it will also bypass a probate proceeding.  A person may choose to add a paid on death (POD) beneficiary to an account.  Much like the life estate, the amount in the bank account at death would pass straight to the beneficiary without being considered part of your estate.

If you are interested in discussing drafting a will or basic estate planning, please contact one of our experienced attorneys at Montague, Pittman & Varnado.  We can provide a free initial consultation to determine what you may need to protect your assets and provide the most for your loved ones when you pass away.


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