It is human nature to put things off, especially when the subject is planning for when you won’t be around. There’s a huge misconception about estate and will. Some people think they need to be wealthy to have a will, but that’s not true. A will simply states who will get what when you pass away.
Despite the importance of this planning concept, approximately half of all Americans die without a will. This is called intestate, which means a local probate court will appoint an administrator to distribute estates based on state law. The administrator will also designate a guardian for any minors. The court, not you, decides what happens to your assets and children. When people realize the implications of not having control, they want to start talking about a will.
As an advisor , there are steps I encourage you to make sure your overall financial plan is protected. An attorney will draw up a will, and if you don’t have one we can recommend some trusted attorneys in your community.
Outlined below is a five-step plan to get you acclimated to the world of wills.
Step one: You should know what a will does and doesn’t do
By understanding the basics of what a will does or doesn’t do, you’ll identify any voids other forms of estate planning can fill (i.e. life insurance, charitable giving, and trusts).
What a will does for you:
- States, in detail, where assets go after you die
- States who the executor is and outlines powers so he or she can administer the will
- Designates a guardian for children if there is no surviving parent
What a will doesn’t do for you:
It can’t void the terms of a trust or other financial planning device, like a life insurance policy, with a beneficiary
Step two: You should inventory your assets
Break up assets into two categories: 1) assets you hold as an individual, like savings accounts, stocks, bonds and real estate – typically things that will pass through a will, and 2) assets that have a named beneficiary, like a life insurance policy or annuity.
Step three: You should list desired beneficiaries
You can start with your inventoried assets from step two. Anything you own that you want someone to have needs to be listed. Make sure you state the full name of each beneficiary and the relationship (cousin, uncle, etc.) so the administrator knows exactly who gets what. It’s a good idea to list debtors, too.
Step four: You should name an executor
The executor you name should be trustworthy because the most important job he or she has is to carry out your wishes via the terms of your will. If you don’t name an executor, the court will.
Step five: You should name a guardian for minors
This could be one of the most difficult, emotional decisions to make because people can’t imagine someone else raising their children. But emotions only reiterate the importance of this decision. Make sure you talk in depth to loved ones they want to name as a guardian.
After your will is drawn up, it needs to be executed. Depending on your state’s requirements, you may need to sign in front of witnesses. Store the will in a safe place and tell a family member or trusted friend where to find it. Finally, one important, yet overlooked, reminder: Keep the will current. If anything needs to change, amending a will is easy.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us: 239-LIFE-GUY or Email@LifeGuy.com
LifeGuy is not an attorney, and this article does not constitute legal advice.
You should contact your attorney to discuss your will.