Will You or Won’t You

Though it’s not a glamorous or fun topic to discuss, having a will in place for you and your family is a vital piece of planning for your future. But when is the right time to get your will drawn up?

We will cover some basics about wills and some important information to ponder when it comes to making important decisions around them.

So, what is a will?
A will is a legal document that instructs how to handle your affairs (such as property, care of children, finances, etc.) upon your passing. In many cases of those without wills, these decisions are left to judges or state officials. Having a will drawn up by an estate attorney is one of the safest ways to ensure the paperwork is executed correctly.

Who should have one?
There are many milestones of life events that could prioritize your need for a will.

  • Getting married–in order to ensure that your spouse receives the assets you have intended for them, it is important that you both lay out your wishes in a will.
  • Having children–the same applies here. If you want your children to receive certain benefits or assets, they should be clearly laid out in a legal document.
  • If you’re single–for those who are not married, it’s important to identify who your assets should be given to. Without specification, your belongings may be distributed to distant relatives, but a will can prevent this.

Naming the executor
When creating a will, you will be responsible for naming an executor. The executor is officially appointed by the court to act on your behalf. The executor’s responsibilities are wide but include coordination with banks, credit card companies, governmental agencies, etc. They are also responsible for overseeing the distribution of assets and representing the estate in court. While some choose someone from their immediate family to be the executor, it is common to choose individuals outside the family as well.

Selecting guardians and/or trustees
This is an essential element when creating a will. For those who have children, naming their guardian(s) is a crucial task. This will be the person or people who take custody of your child upon your passing. The trustee for your children will be the party responsible for the assets left for your child. The main differences are that guardians manage the child’s property while the trustee would manage the child’s assets. In most cases, these are two separate people.

What is in? What is out?
While a will does allow you to designate certain assets, not all accounts are covered through this type of document. Below is a list of properties that usually cannot be assigned through your will.

  • Joint property you own with someone else
  • Property you have transferred to a living trust
  • Proceeds from a life insurance policy for whom you have already listed a beneficiary
  • Proceeds from a retirement account for whom you have already listed a beneficiary
  • Money in a payable-on-death-bank account