Making a Will is Essential to Your Plan

Estate planning is a method for determining how to distribute your property during your life and at your death. It is the process of developing and implementing a master plan that facilitates the distribution of your property after your death, and according to your goals and objectives.

Estate planning documents

There are five estate planning documents you may need, regardless of your age, health or wealth:

  1. Durable power of attorney
  2. Advance medical directives
  3. Will
  4. Letter of instruction
  5. Living trust

Since August is National Make a Will Month, this column will focus on a Will as an estate planning tool.

What is a Will?

A Will is a legal document that lets you state how you want your property distributed after you die, who shall administer your estate, and who will care for your minor children. A Will is often said to be the cornerstone of any estate plan. If you don’t leave a Will, disbursements will be made according to state law. Anyone with property or minor children should have a Will.

There are two equally important aspects of a Will:

  1. You can name the person (executor) who will manage and settle your estate. If you do not name someone the court will appoint an administrator.
  2. You can name a legal guardian for minor children or dependents with special needs. If you don’t appoint a guardian, the state will appoint one for you.

Keep in mind that a Will is a legal document, and the courts are very reluctant to overturn any provisions within it. Therefore, it’s crucial that your Will be well-written and articulated, and properly executed under your state’s laws. It’s also important to keep your Will up-to-date.

Rules to remember when writing a Will

  • In most states, you must be 18 years of age or older
  • A Will must be written in sound judgment and mental capacity to be valid
  • The document must clearly state that it is your Will
  • An executor of your Will must be named
  • It is not necessary to notarize or record your Will, but these can safeguard against claims that your Will is invalid
  • You must sign a Will in the presence of at least two witnesses.

Naming an executor

An executor is the person who is responsible for settling the estate after death, according to your wishes. Executor duties include:

  • Taking inventory of property and belongings
  • Appraising and distributing assets
  • Paying taxes
  • Settling any debts you owe

Since the role of executor can be demanding, it’s often a good idea to ask the person being named in a will if he or she is willing to serve.

If you’re thinking of creating a Will, seek the assistance of an estate planning attorney. Preparing a Will is important for your peace of mind. It assures the satisfactory distribution of your assets as well as guaranteeing that the care of your minor children will be carried out to your specifications.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2016.

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