Lesson Two: Planning a Thoughtful Will

Why Do People Need Wills?
A will is one of the most important documents you will ever sign.  Think about the things a will enables you to do:

  • A will lets you direct precisely who will receive all the property you have accumulated over your lifetime.  Without a will, the state often decides who receives what – all according to inflexible rules.
  • Your will can contain a trust that provides financial security and money management for family members who need special assistance.
  • Your will permits you to nominate the persons who will handle your estate or serve as guardians of minor children.
  • Your will enables you to assist friends, worthwhile causes, institutions and others that the law omits.
  • A skillfully drafted will can help minimize taxes and other costs that may sap your estate of vital assets.
  • Your will can be an expression of your personal values.  You may wish to memorialize a special person in your life, aid an impoverished friend or distribute cherished heirlooms to special people.
  • Executing a will is neither difficult nor expensive.  Yet the rewards are great indeed, both in peace of mind and in personal satisfaction.

Will Making: Easy as 1-2-3
No one forces you to make a will.  Indeed, during your lifetime, almost no one will know if you don’t have a will.  But you probably do intend to make a will . . . someday.  Unfortunately, that someday may never arrive unless you take action today.  What kind of action?

1.  Call an attorney and make an appointment to plan your will.  If you do not have an attorney, ask a friend or relative to recommend one, or call your local bar association.

2.  Before the appointment, sit down with pencil and paper and set out all the goals you would like to accomplish through your will.  Write down the names of your intended beneficiaries.  You should consider any special needs they may have.  Reflect carefully.  Plan objectively.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I want to leave everything to my spouse?  Should I leave it outright or in trust?
  • What happens if my spouse and I were to die within a short time of each other?
  • Do I need to name a guardian for minor children or others?
  • Are my children mature enough to handle a large, immediate inheritance?
  • What does my estate include (cash, real estate, insurance, investments, IRA, etc.)?
  • Will my estate be subject to estate tax?  How can I avoid or reduce the tax?
  • Do I have any assets that require special treatment, such as a closely held business?
  • Besides my spouse and children, is anyone else dependent upon me for care (aged parents, friends)?
  • Should I continue supporting, after my death, those charitable organizations I assisted during my lifetime?

Your attorney will ask you these and other questions in order to draft the right will for you and your unique situation.  He or she will make sure the wording is clear, that all possibilities are considered and that your will conforms to state law.

3.  Keep your appointments and follow through on your will planning.  Keep your will in a fire-safe place and let the person you name as executor know where the will can be found.

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