Forbes estimates that about 51 percent of Americans aged 55 to 64 don’t have a will. Even more staggering, 62 percent of men and 67 percent of women aged 45 to 54 haven’t written one. When you die without a will, it’s called intestate, and there’s no guarantee as to who will inherit your assets. Typically, if you’re married, then your spouse will inherit. It becomes trickier if you don’t have a wife, but you have children under the age of 18. The state might name a guardian for them and place the assets in a trust for the children. If your children are over 18, the estate will most likely have to go through probate, which is a slow-moving court proceeding in which the judge sorts out the estate. If you’re childless, the court may give your money to your nearest relatives.
Now that you’ve decided to write your will, what should you put in it? Here are five things your will should include
1. Guardians for your minor children, if you have any. Although typically your spouse would automatically become the child’s guardian, you might want to consider what happens if you and your spouse die at the same time.
2. Name of the executor – This is the person appointed by you to carry out the terms and conditions of your will. Remember, it is both an honor and a burden to serve as an executor, so choose wisely.
3. Distribution of assets – This is how your assets are divided. You may want to give money to a charity. Maybe you have an heirloom brooch that should go to your sister’s daughter. You may have a piece of artwork you want to give to a friend. Put all of this in writing.
4. Digital accounts – If you are on social media, have a directive concerning how to deal with your Facebook or Twitter accounts. Include bank account information and other online accounts that others may not know about. This is even more important in today’s world as we move into the cloud.
5. If you are disinheriting a child or spouse, you should put this into your will and why. Your attorney can discuss the particulars, but this will make it easier for the other heirs to continue with their business without having the will contested.
It takes just a couple of meetings with an experienced estate planning attorney from our firm to draft your will and give you the peace of mind that your estate is protected from the whims of the court. We’re here to help, no matter how complex or simple your estate is.