Drafting a will is an essential part of estate planning. Even though it’s vitally important, a recent survey from AARP revealed that two out of five Americans over the age of 45 don’t have one.
The Reflector’s recent article, “Things people should know about creating wills,” says that writing your wishes down on paper helps avoid unnecessary work and stress when you die. Signing a will allows heirs to act with the decedent’s wishes in mind and also will make certain that assets and possessions go to the right people.
Estate planning can be complicated. That is the reason why many people turn to estate planning attorneys to make sure this important task is done correctly and legally. Here are some of the estate planning topics to discuss with your lawyer:
List of Your Assets. Create a list of your assets and determine the ones covered by the will and those that will have to be passed through joint tenancy on a deed or a living trust. For instance, life insurance policies or retirement plan proceeds will be distributed by the beneficiaries you named in each account. Remember that your will can list other assets, like memorabilia, antiques, cars and jewelry.
Naming a Guardian. Parents with minor children should definitely designate the person or persons whom they want to become guardians, if they were to die unexpectedly. They can also use their will to name a person who will be in charge of the finances for the children.
Remembering Your Pets. It’s common for pet owners to use their will to detail guardianship for their pets and to leave money or property to defray the cost of their care. However, remember that pets don’t have the legal capacity to own property, so don’t leave money directly to pets in a will. A pet trust is legal in most states and is the best way to leave money and name a caretaker for your pets.
Stating Your Funeral Instructions. Settling probate won’t occur until after the funeral. As a result, any funeral wishes in a will frequently aren’t read until after the fact.
Designate an Executor. This is a trusted individual who will execute the terms of the will. He or she should be willing to serve and be capable of executing the will.
Those who die without a valid will become intestate. This will result in their estate being settled, based on the laws of where that person lived. A court-appointed administrator will have the authority to transfer the assets and property. This administrator is bound by the state’s intestacy laws and may make decisions that go against the decedent’s wishes. To avoid this, work with an experienced estate planning attorney to draft a will and other estate planning documents.
Reference: The Reflector (July 15, 2019) “Things people should know about creating wills”