When It Comes to Estate Planning, the Will Always Leads the Way

ADVERTISEMENT

Estate planning and wills are two of the most important aspects of any person’s life, and yet many people put them off until it’s too late.

If you don’t have an estate plan in place, or if your will is outdated, you could be at risk of losing everything to an undesirable family member or causing an undue burden on your loved ones after your death. What steps should you take to ensure that this doesn’t happen?

The importance of organizing your will


A will is a legal instrument that must be signed in front of a notary public or another state official who confirms your identity and acts as a witness to its signing. You may decide that you don’t need a will; most states don’t require them. But there are several reasons why an organized estate plan is important.

What’s included in a will?


A will is a legal document that tells your beneficiaries what happens to your assets after you die. The will leads all other estate planning documents; if it doesn’t exist, then its instructions don’t carry any weight.

For example, without a will stating otherwise (see below), a person’s property gets handled according to intestacy laws in his or her state.

Who should have access to my will?


At a minimum, it’s a good idea to have your executor and any beneficiaries listed in your will. If you have assets that will be passed along by someone else (say, a trust), you should list their names as well. Make sure those closest to you are aware of what items they can expect from your estate and how much they should expect.

ADVERTISEMENT

How does my will get executed?


Once a person passes away, a will—also known as an estate plan—must be followed in order for assets to be distributed in accordance with their wishes.

Whether your final documents include a revocable trust, living will, or power of attorney; it’s vital that your beneficiaries and fiduciaries are informed of their responsibilities as well as have access to any necessary documents. This way you can rest assured knowing that your hard-earned assets will go where they belong after you’re gone.

The cost of estate planning documents


Your first step is always going to be choosing a lawyer. Not only are they going to be able to help you craft your estate plan—wills, powers of attorney and medical directives—but they’ll also keep costs down by helping you avoid any unnecessary steps or issues along the way.

Dealing with family conflict over wills


Have you had a disagreement with your family members over how your will should be distributed? Perhaps you’ve lost touch with relatives who are named in your will. While it’s important to have a valid will and trust, conflicts arise often when there is money on the line.

However, taking action early on and preparing yourself for potential problems, later on, can help avoid future arguments with family members. If you do experience problems down the road, however, you can take steps now to protect yourself.