Think of a Will as our written instructions for those we leave behind.
A recent survey from AARP found that two out of five Americans over the age of 45 do not have a will.
Preparing for the end of life is important, but many choose to ignore this very important detail. Let’s face it, life is busy, and planning for death can seem overwhelming and maybe even depressing.
According to a new Caring.com survey, only 42 percent of U.S. adults currently have estate planning documents such as a will or living trust. Surprisingly, for those with children under the age of 18, that figure is even lower, with just 36 percent having an end-of-life plan in place.
However, 81 percent of those age 72 or older do, in fact, have estate-planning documents. As people age, we face the reality that having an estate plan is important and will begin putting all those documents into place. However, we recommend beginning the planning process much earlier.
By drafting a will with an experienced estate planning attorney, you can avoid unnecessary work and perhaps some stress when a family member passes away. A will instructs your heirs to act with the your wishes in mind and can make certain that their assets and possessions are passed to the correct individuals or organizations in the manner you intended.
We recommend you read our blog “If You Haven’t Been Reviewing Your Estate Plan, Start when You Hit 60.”
This will outline the years in your life when you should begin planning and the steps you should take. We suggest you begin by creating a list of your known assets and determine which of those are covered by a will. Keep in mind, without a will or a legally drafted estate plan, there is no guarantee what will happen to your assets and/or debts when you die. Don’t leave a mess for your loved ones.
By working with an attorney to draft your will and estate plan, you can rest assured that all aspects of your specific situation have been addressed, such as joint tenancy, beneficiary designation, life insurance policies or retirement plan proceed assignment. Everything can be assigned in your will. Even less conventional assets, such as photographs, mementos and jewelry.
Parents with minor children should include a clause in their will regarding whom they want to become the guardians for their underage children or dependents. And some people use their will to instruct the guardianship of pets and how they will be cared for.
Your will can also outline your funeral arrangements and make sure that money has been set aside for this purpose.
Finally, an executor should be assigned. This individual is a trusted person who will carry out the terms of your will.
It is important to note that those who die without a valid will become “intestate.” This results in their estate being settled based on the laws where they lived, and a court-appointed administrator will serve to transfer all property. This administrator will be bound by the laws of the state and may make decisions that go against the decedent's wishes.
To avoid this, a will and other estate planning documents are critical. Come talk to us today by either setting up a FREE consultation or attending one of our FREE workshops.
We also recommend getting more tips on saving money and budgeting in the AARP Money Matters newsletter.