The reason people make a will is that they want to be certain who gets their stuff when they die. Pretty simple, right? Well, not exactly...
When we meet with clients to discuss their wills, we get a pretty good feel for how they think they want their assets to be distributed and, sometimes, which of their beneficiaries they worry about the most. Often, the husband or wife is the primary beneficiary and the kids are the alternate beneficiaries, and that's great. But what if your spouse dies before you do and there are three kids, and one of them dies before you as well? What happens to that kid's share? Does it go to the other two kids? What if by the time you die, there are grandkids? Do they get their deceased parent's share or not? What if those grandkids are all under the age of 18? Their money will go into the registry of the court until they're 18, then they'll get it with no strings attached. Do you want them to get everything right away? They'll spend it all within a year. What about putting a trust for minors in your will, so they can't get their hands on it until the age you specify? Great idea! Who's the trustee going to be? Well, no, it can't be their parent because they don't inherit unless their parent died before you did.
"Killing off the beneficiaries" is the process we use to start walking through these "what if" scenarios. If you're thinking about getting your estate plan in place, make sure your attorney has this kind of conversation with you.