An Easy New Year’s Resolution
If you haven’t done so already, NOW is the time to create your Last Will and Testament that will benefitting yourself, your spouse, and your loved ones that you will leave behind.
Creating your will is one of the most important things you can do in planning for your future and the future of your family. A will allows you to continue to control the distribution of most of your assets after you have passed away. But there is a lot more to creating your w
ill than just deciding ‘it’s time’.
Let’s take a minute to talk about the cast of characters that need to get involved in your will. The first and most important person for you to appoint is your executor. This is the person you want to settle your estate after you are gone. Note: it does not have to be a family member and sometimes you may be better off picking someone outside of the family.
Appoint your executor wisely! This person is responsible to deal with the Probate Court, to pay off your bills, and to make sure your final wishes are carried out. Bottom Line: Your executor needs to be someone you trust implicitly and someone who will have the tenacity to stand up to potential family pressures.
Your beneficiaries are people or organizations to whom you want your assets distributed to after you die. I recommend that you outline in your will exactly who gets what. The following is a poor example of a stipulation. “I bequeath that my coin collection goes to Susan and Joe.” The devil is in the details. Who are Susan and Joe and you need to be much more specific regarding which portions of the coin collection goes to what beneficiary.
Hot Tip: You really want to use a lawyer to help you finalize and prepare your will. Your lawyer will also be able to identify potential minefields where clarification may be needed. You can save yourself some time and money by preparing a rough outline regarding what your desires are before you meet with your attorney. Remember he/she is getting paid by the hour.
What is a will administrator? Trust me; you do not want one of these. An administrator is appointed by the Probate Court to manage the distribution of your assets if you die without a will. It is also called dying intestate. Many people falsely believe that if they die without a will, all their assets will simply go to the spouse or the kids. It’s not true. The laws vary from state to state, but the short answer is that some of your assets may go to your spouse, parents, children and some may not. DO NOT give up that control over the distribution of your assets that you have worked so hard to accumulate.
Take the time to compile your thoughts and your wishes and create a legal will.
If you already have a will…great! That is an awesome first step. The operative word is first. A will is not a one-and-done document. It should be reviewed every two years and perhaps sooner if there is a triggering event. Triggering events include getting married, getting divorced, having children, having grandchildren, buying a house, selling a house, or other major changes in your life or asset portfolio. One of the most common mistakes people make is not keeping their will current.
Just remember… Where there’s a will, there’s a way.