Think of your will as a love letter that will tell how you want to care for your family and friends when you are gone. It is not just a way to direct how you want your assets to be distributed.
Estate planning can make people uncomfortable, since it forces us to contemplate our own death as well as the idea that after we are gone, the world will continue. But it is recommended that you pivot your thinking and consider a will as a message to those who you leave behind. It shows that you thought enough about them to spare them from the stress and expenses that result when there is no will. It can also give you peace of mind, knowing that you’ve taken care of the hard details and made the necessary choices.
Some of the elements of final planning are described below.
In the article, “A Will Can Be a Beautiful Thing,” Kiplinger’s advises that the initial step in estate planning is creating a will. A recent survey found that 64% percent of American adults don’t have a will. They either decided they didn’t need one or they have just kept putting it off. A will instructs who you want to inherit your assets. It’s also used to let parents name a guardian to care for their minor children. Without a will, all of your estate may wind up in probate court. One option of an estate plan is a living trust. A trust transfers assets from the trust to beneficiaries without having to go through the probate process.
Here are a few other reminders about estate plans:
- Spell Out Your Decisions on End-of-Life Care. Tell loved ones your wishes in the event that you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself. This includes life support, sustenance and pain treatment, as well as organ donation. A living will also contains a health care declaration with a power of attorney designating the agent you name to ensure that your medical instructions are executed.
- Check Your Beneficiaries. Fill out each of the beneficiary designations for your bank accounts, brokerage accounts and life insurance policies. You should specify both your primary and contingent beneficiaries.
- Document Your Funeral Wishes. Specify whether you want to be buried or cremated. You can also list favorite music or scriptures for your end-of-life celebration or funeral. You should also note if you’re a veteran and whether you have funds put aside for funeral expenses.
- Important Papers and Information. Keep real estate and car deeds, wills, trusts, insurance policies, retirement benefits, 401(k), and IRA documents in a safe location. However, make sure to tell the executor of your estate where these items are kept.
- Planning for Married People. Each member of the couple should have their own will, since it is not likely that you will both pass away at the same time. If you have a separate will for each spouse, you can take into consideration circumstances like children from a prior marriage, charitable causes that you want to support that your spouse may not value as much as you do and your personal effects.
Your will can be another way that you show your loved ones how much they mean to you, and that you want to protect them, even after death.
Reference: Kiplinger’s (April 2017) “A Will Can Be a Beautiful Thing”