A will is the cornerstone of estate planning. It reflects your wishes for the distribution of your assets, must comply with your state’s laws and helps your family after you have died.
Despite its importance and the inevitable need, AARP did a survey that showed that two of five Americans over age 45 still don’t have a will. Everyone needs a will. Here’s why.
Drafting a will with an experienced estate planning attorney helps avoid unnecessary work and perhaps some stress, when a family member passes away. A will permits the heirs to act with the decedent's wishes in mind and can make certain that assets and possessions are passed to the correct individuals or organizations.
The Delaware County Daily Times’ recent article, “Senior Life: Things people should know about creating wills,” says that estate planning can be complicated. That’s the reason why many people use an experienced attorney to get the job done right. These attorneys specialize in estate planning and will discuss the following topics with their clients.
- Assets: Create a list of known assets and determine which of those are covered by the will and which have to be passed on according to other estate laws, such as through joint tenancy or a beneficiary designation, like life insurance policies or retirement plan proceeds. A will also can dispose of other assets, such as photographs, mementos and jewelry.
- Guardianship: Parents with minor children should include a clause regarding whom they want to become the guardians for their underage children or dependents.
- Pets: Some people use their will to instruct the guardianship of pets and to leave assets for their care. However, remember that pets don’t have the legal capacity to own property, so don't give money directly to pets in a will.
- Funeral instructions: Finalizing probate won’t occur until after the funeral, so wishes may go unheeded.
- Executor: This individual is a trusted person who will carry out the terms of the will. She should be willing to serve and be capable of executing the will.
Those who die without a valid will become intestate. This results in the estate being settled based upon the laws where that person lived. A court-appointed administrator will serve in the capacity to transfer property. This administrator will be bound by the laws of the state and may make decisions that go against the decedent's wishes.
Don’t wait to speak with an estate planning attorney. Find one with excellent credentials, who responds to your questions in a way that makes you feel comfortable and get started on taking care of this part of your life. Your family will appreciate it, and your legacy won’t be ruined by a postmortem mess.
Reference: The Delaware County Daily Times (January 7, 2019) “Senior Life: Things people should know about creating wills”