50% of Parents Do Not Have a Will
If you died tomorrow, who would inherit your items of wealth…your car…your home…your investments? With so many Americans looking for ways to save a buck, this sobering statistic is alarming in that many estates are reduced significantly when the decedent fails to create so much as a Last Will and Testament.
So what happens if you die without a Will (known as dying “intestate”)? A state court will decide how your property is distributed, what measures will be taken to preserve or sell your items, and what expenses will decrease the value of the remainder enjoyed by your loved ones. Who in their right minds would voluntarily allow others to control and distribute the wealth it took them a lifetime to obtain?
Our changing societal norms and demographic patterns also make the establishment of an estate plan critical. More and more people are divorcing or refusing to marry. If these unmarried parties enjoy a child in common, the surviving partner doesn’t receive the same protections that are provided by law for a married couple.
– List your significant assets, financial advisors, retirement plans, divorce papers, premarital agreements, and any other such documents.
– Gather employment benefits statements, life insurance policies, deeds to real property, partnership and business agreements and the last two years of income tax returns.
– If you’re married, each spouse makes a separate will.
– Decide who will inherit your property. After you make your first choices, choose alternate beneficiaries, too, in case your first choices don’t survive you.
– Choose a personal representative (f/k/a executor or executrix) to administer your estate. Be sure to let that person know you want them to serve as personal representative so it’s not a surprise.
– If your children are under 18, decide who you want to raise them in the event that you and their other parent can’t. You should also pick someone who can manage your children’s property.
– Identify other decision makers to carry out your health & money choices for you if you’re incapacitated.