For Mark Roberts’ Use: When we discuss estate planning, most people know that creating a Last Will and Testament is generally the cornerstone of these plans. And yet, you might be surprised at how many people have procrastinated on this important legal step! According to at least one survey*, 40 percent of those aged 53 to 71 have yet to draft a Will. Of the 72-and-over population, 19 percent still haven’t taken this step!
Meeting with an estate planning attorney to create a Will is a relatively easy task, and one that everyone should undertake to ensure that their wishes are followed after death. While other estate planning measures might also be necessary, a Will can address these four basic functions:
Appoint a guardian for children. In most cases, children will be grown before your Will is ever used. However, this function of Wills is worth mentioning, particularly if you have a adult child with special needs. These situations require additional planning.
Name an executor. Most people will name an executor via their Will. This person acts as your representative after death, and they will address financial issues and other final matters.
Name beneficiaries. Most of us consider this the primary function of a Will. You can use your Will to bequeath certain property and assets to the people of your choice. However, be aware that in some cases, state law can supersede anything stated within your Will. For example, your interest in certain types of property titled jointly will pass to the surviving owners.
In other cases, the beneficiary forms you filed for certain assets, like a life insurance policy or retirement plan, will take precedence over your Will.
Finally, even with a Will, your estate will pass through probate court before assets are distributed to beneficiaries according to your wishes.
Create a trust. You can describe the terms of a trust within your Will, but do take care to consult an experienced estate planning attorney before doing so. While a handwritten Will is generally accepted in court (although it can more easily be contested), a trust requires certain legal documentation in order to be legally effective.
If you haven’t yet created your Will, we urge you to schedule an appointment with an estate planning attorney. And, if you have any questions relating to the financial aspect of estate planning, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. We can meet with you to discuss estate taxes, your retirement plan, life insurance, and more.