Lawyers.com, two-thirds of Americans have no will. I believe it! Repeatedly, people approach me after these seminars to admit embarrassingly that they have no estate plan – no advance directives, no last will and testament. I have meet elderly widows, single parents, middle-aged couples, parents of young children, senior adults – all of them with no will. Are you among them? Then, read on.
People often assume that if they are not wealthy, they do not need a will. They consider creating an estate plan to be an unnecessary expense. In essence, everyone does have a will – either by design or by default. Either you have taken the time to design a proper will and specify the eventual distribution of your property or you are relying on the impersonal state laws that define how assets are to be distributed when no will exists.
So, what are the consequences of not having a will? The probate court appoints an administrator of your estate, names guardians for surviving minor children, and disperses your property. The court will oversee many other provisions that are enforceable in the absence of a will. Estate administration costs are normally higher for probated estates without a will.
- A will actually encourages good stewardship. Using your will power encourages you to be a steward of your assets
- A will is one of the only ways to convey your personal wishes for distributing your property to loved ones
- A will permits you to select a personal representative in whom you have confidence
- A will gives you the opportunity to name the guardians of your children
- A will leads to a more efficient process with the probate court and Internal Revenue Service
- A will allows you to name specific beneficiaries, including your family, your church, and other charitable organizations
- A will enables you to choose your own trustee or qualified organization to oversee the financial management of your estate.
While a will is a fundamental document, several other documents might be considered as primary components of an estate plan. These documents may include: a living will with a patient advocate designation and an authorization under HIPAA, a durable power of attorney, a letter of instruction, a living or revocable trust, and life and long-term care insurance.
A charitable gift to your church or other church-related ministry may also be included in your will. Charitable gifts made upon death are the most popular type of gift from accumulated assets. These gifts are often referred to as "bequests." They are so popular because a bequest gives you the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy while retaining full use of your property during your life.
If you would like to ask basic questions about estate planning or if you are interesting in learning more about planned charitable gifts, please feel free to contact us. And, most importantly, if you do not have a will, I urge you to establish one for the sake of those whom you love.