Many Americans don’t think they need a will because they aren’t wealthy. That is demonstrably false. Anybody who wants to secure their future or their family’s future can benefit from crafting an estate plan.
Before beginning the process of writing up a will, it’s essential to do your prep work. Just like a chef would prepare their ingredients before starting a recipe, you should prepare the necessary documents and thoughts before planning your estate’s future.
So, what questions should you ask yourself? Every individual and family will have slightly different circumstances surrounding their modest or wealthy estate, but there a five questions everybody should ask themselves.
What do I own?
Gather or draft documentation showing every asset you own that you find worthy. If you draft a will, some items will have to pass through probate like cash and investment accounts, real estate, artwork, jewelry or any other asset that you individually own.
Jointly owned assets do not have to pass through probate open your death.
These items include: 401(k) or life insurance accounts, any account or asset with survivorship rights, which means that when one spouse dies, the surviving spouse automatically gains control of the account, and any asset labeled in a trust because trusts do not have to pass through probate.
Who do you want to receive your assets?
Maybe you want to leave everything to your surviving spouse? If so, that makes the process easier. But what if you want to leave something to your children (if applicable), a very close friend or a relative? It’s critical to specify your intentions and update your estate plan as life changes. Leaving the decision to your family members to amicably split up your assets and personal belongings post-death is a recipe for disaster. To make sure your estate plan is up to date, evaluate your life every six to 12 months, and conduct a quick audit. This action ensures your assets will go to the right people.
Who is your executor?
Every will needs an executor. This person should be trustworthy because they will be the sole person carrying out your final wishes. Commonly the executor is the surviving spouse or your adult child, but depending on your circumstance, it could also be a close friend, relative, colleague or even your estate attorney.
Who would you like to be your children’s guardian?
No set of parents wish to pass away before their children become legal adults, but sadly, it happens. Thus it’s important to prepare. When considering your child’s guardian, you’ll want to put immense thought into the decision. Agreeing to be a legal guardian is a significant responsibility ant a decision not to be taken lightly. Have a few options available in case your first option declines.
Lastly, do you want to draft the will yourself or hire an attorney?
Because of the formal and tax-efficient manner, it’s no simple task to write up an estate plan if you want it done right. There are online resources available if you choose to do it alone, but they may pale in comparison to a professional attorney’s assistance and guidance.