Plan ahead: Write a will
Virtually everyone has an estate, which comprises your money, investments, your personal possessions, real estate and any other property that you own now or in the future. The essence of estate planning is that it gives you a way to make sure family members and others receive your property upon your death, and that your personal health care wishes are honored. It also allows you to leave a lasting impression on those you love and the causes you believe in.
It's never too early to begin thinking about your legacy to your children, your grandchildren and charitable organizations.
When developing an estate plan, it’s important to think about controlling where your money goes, as well as leveraging strategies to ensure the maximum amount of your assets is directed toward your goals.
Additionally, you might want to consider developing the right health care documents in case you face a medical setback.
Having an estate plan is an important part of leaving a legacy
Yet, although nearly everyone has an estate, more than half of adult Americans with children don't have a will,1 so they don't know who will legally act as their children’s guardian or who will inherit their assets, house or beloved pets after they’re gone.
A will allows you to:
- Designate a person as your executor who will be your legal representative after your death.
- Nominate a guardian for your children, if they are minors.
- Leave bequests (gifts) to anyone you want, including family, friends and favorite charities.
- Specify how to pay estate taxes, debts and other expenses.
- Specify distributions of your property to minimize any potential taxes.
A last will and testament is the cornerstone of any estate plan
The most important reason to have a will: If you perish without one, the state takes over winding up your affairs and distributes your property according to state probate laws, not your wishes.
You can write your own will, but consider working with an attorney to make sure your will is valid and conforms to state law. Check if legal services are available to you as part of your employee benefits. Review your will from time to time to make sure it is up to date and reflects any changes in your life.
1Caring.com, 2020 Estate planning and Wills Study