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Estate Planning Basics: Do You Have A Will?

| Matt Boyce

Death is a scary topic. So scary that people avoid talking about it or anything pertaining to it at all costs. So scary that 64 percent of Americans don’t have a will.

Without a will, you are relinquishing to the state your right to determine what happens to your assets and liabilities, which is known as dying intestate. Each state has its guidelines on dividing assets and liabilities should an individual not have a will. A will legally secures the division of your assets and liabilities and is the best way to ensure all of your wishes are carried out as you deem appropriate.

Who Needs A Will

Don’t be fooled. You do not have to have acres upon acres of land or thousands of dollars in the bank to have a will. Everyone age 18 and above should have one, especially people who are married or have children.

Choosing An Executor

One of the first considerations when making a will is who to name as executor. Your executor is responsible for following the guidelines of the will. He or she will catalog your assets, make sure any remaining debts are paid, close any open accounts and make sure the money and property are divided up as stated in the will. If you do not designate an executor, the court will do so for you.

Creating A Will

Dividing your assets is not always as easy as it may appear. Depending on your state, some assets cannot be assigned by a will, and wills generally do not govern accounts that specify a beneficiary, such as retirement plans, IRAs, life insurance and annuities. A consultation with a lawyer or financial advisor is highly recommended. For assets that are not jointly owned, your will allows you to determine what happens to the things that are precious to you. Whether you intend to give your assets to family, friends or charities, a will is the only way to be sure your wishes are carried out after your passing.

A will also allows you to designate who should take care of your children. Minors would have legal guardians until they turn 18, in case one or both parents die or become incapacitated. Without a will, a state-appointed administrator could be put in charge of your children’s future and finances.

Making A Will Official

Once all of your wishes and desires have been put to paper, you need to make sure your will is official. Most states require you to sign and date your will in front of two witnesses (some states require three). You might be surprised to learn that some states do not recognize holographic, otherwise known as handwritten, wills. While it makes for a dramatic movie scene, jotting your last wishes on a napkin won’t always work. Details like this are what make proper representation essential when creating your will.

Contact A Financial Advisor Who Cares

These tips can help you create or update your will. To speak with the knowledgeable Investment Advisor Representatives about details specific to your will, contact American Financial Advisors today.


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