Making Your Will
Making Your Will
Ever have that Woulda/Coulda/Shoulda feeling? After your funeral? Not me, and I don’t want it, either. Yet over 55% of adult Americans have no Will, according to a Harris Interactive poll taken in March of 2007. Why is that, when a properly thought out and executed Will can benefit almost everyone?
Only have a small estate and don’t think you need a will? Consider equity in your home, life insurance proceeds (many have group life insurance at work), lump sum pension benefits, personal injury and death settlements if you’re negligently injured or killed in an accident, even testamentary gifts from deceased parents or relatives. Any of these will enlarge our estate. Some will do so posthumously. A Will, done now, can ensure your Estate is distributed the way you want.
Here are some of the things a Will can do for you (and your survivors):
1.A Will can provide for your spouse and children in the amounts and in the way that you decide. Without a Will, government statutes decide what share of your estate your spouse and children each receive. The statutes make no provision for anyone other than your immediate surviving family. If you wanted to leave your fishing equipment to Uncle Joe, too bad. The costs of getting “Administration” of an estate are typically substantially greater that the costs of getting “Probate” of your Will, leaving your survivors with less estate to divide;
2.In a Will you can direct “specific bequests.” A specific bequest will give those items having special emotional meaning to those family members, friends, or relatives the bequest has emotional meaning for;
3.Your Will can appoint someone or some organization you know and trust to take care of your estate. The alternative, in the absence of a will, is a Court appointed Administrator to take care of your estate. The Administrator may not be the person or organization you would have chosen in the best interests of your family. In addition, there are additional court costs for such an appointment, leaving less estate for your beneficiaries;
4.You may, in your Will, set up trust funds for minor children or disabled adult children. You can appoint the people or organization you want to ensure the money goes to your children in the way you want it to. For example, you may direct that your children’s shares may be used for their medical or educational benefit, prior to reaching the age of majority. You may also direct that estate funds be delivered to your kids at an age, some time after the age of majority, when you believe your son or daughter will have developed the emotional maturity to handle money properly;
5.With your Will you can appoint a guardian or guardians to care for your minor children. The security and comfort of knowing that, if both you and your spouse die, your kids won’t go through the additional trauma and dislocation of a court application for custody is the benefit here. Such a court application might even involve a dispute as to who is to care for them. You can also specify, in the Will, any financial benefits you wish to arrange for the guardian(s) in return for their assuming the custody and care of your children;
6.A Will can ensure life insurance and pension lump sum proceeds are disposed of in the way you wish;
7.In addition to the lower legal costs involved if your Will is in place, you can also, by co-ordinating the terms of your Will with asset arrangements made prior to death, substantially reduce or eliminate certain fees and taxes levied by the government upon your death. This co-ordinated and perfectly legal process to reduce government taxation of your estate is called Estate Planning.
Please…avoid that Woulda/Coulda/Shoulda feeling and take steps now to make your Will. There are on-line resources, both for researching the do’s and don’ts, and for obtaining professional advice. Do some research. Get some professional advice. Make your Will. Your spouse, kids, and relatives will thank you later.
references Survey indicating 55% of Americans have no Will