Only one-third of adults have an estate strategy document, such as a will, in place – which may not be entirely surprising. No one wants to be reminded of their own mortality or spend too much time thinking about what might happen once they’re gone.1
But a will is an instrument of power. Creating one gives you control over the distribution of your assets. If you die without one, the state decides what becomes of your property without regard to your priorities.
A will is a legal document by which an individual or a couple (known as “testator”) identifies their wishes regarding the distribution of their assets after death. A will can typically be broken down into four main parts.
1. Executors – Most wills begin by naming an executor. Executors are responsible for carrying out the wishes outlined in a will. This involves assessing the value of the estate, gathering the assets, paying inheritance tax and other debts (if necessary), and distributing assets among beneficiaries. It’s recommended that you name at least two executors, in case your first choice is unable to fulfill the obligation.
2. Guardians – A will allows you to designate a guardian for your minor children. Whomever you appoint, you will want to make sure beforehand that the individual is able and willing to assume the responsibility. For many people, this is the most important part of a will since, if you die without naming a guardian, the court will decide who takes care of your children.
3. Gifts – This section enables you to identify people or organizations to whom you wish to give gifts of money or specific possessions, such as jewelry or a car. You can also specify conditional gifts, such as a sum of money to a young daughter, but only when she reaches a certain age.
4. Estate – Your estate encompasses everything you own, including real property, financial investments, cash, and personal possessions. Once you have identified specific gifts you would like to distribute, you can apportion the rest of your estate in equal shares among your heirs, or you can split it into percentages. For example, you may decide to give 45 percent each to two children and the remaining 10 percent to a sibling.
Preparing for the eventual distribution of your assets may not sound enticing. But remember, a will puts the power in your hands. You have worked hard to create a legacy for your loved ones. You deserve to decide what becomes of it.
Legacy planning is an essential step that many people overlook when it comes to financial planning. It involves developing a strategy for how you want to pass on your assets, values and beliefs to your loved ones after you are gone. It means taking the time to identify who you want to receive your assets and ensuring that your wishes are properly conveyed and legally documented. And legacy planning isn’t just for the wealthy; it’s for anyone who wants to leave a positive impact on the world and their loved ones. It can help ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes, rather than being subject to the default rules of the legal system. It can also help to minimize taxes and other expenses that could reduce the amount of money your loved ones receive. Perhaps, most importantly, it can provide peace of mind to you and those you care about.
Our team is eager to assist you in navigating this process. We’ll start by evaluating your existing assets and liabilities and reviewing any estate planning documents you’ve created such as your will and trust. We’ll work with you to develop various strategies for transferring your assets to your beneficiaries, including gifts, trusts and charitable donations.
By dedicating time to craft a legacy plan, you can rest easy knowing your wishes will be honored and your legacy will endure. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions and we can schedule a meeting to discuss further.
1. Caring.com, 2023
The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG Suite is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2023 FMG Suite.