Are you one of the 55% of the U.S. population that has not made a will?*Are you under the impression that you have to be super rich and have tons of money to have a will or do any sort of estate planning? I assure you that is not the case.
If you answer yes to one of the three following questions than I strongly encourage you to consider having a will:
1. Do you care who gets your property after you die?
2. Do you care who gets your money after your gone?
3. Do you care who's appointed guardian of your minor children if you die?
These are three easy and essential questions when it comes to estate planning and if you answered yes to any one of them then continue reading see why making a will makes “cents” for you.
Who Needs a Will?
As I mentioned earlier it's not just for the super rich. If you want to have any discretion or any decision in the process of who gets your property or who gets your money or who is in charge of your kids in the event of an early passing, then you need to seriously consider having a will.
Essentially that's all a will does. You are putting a document into place while you're still living that makes these decisions for you. If you don't have a will in place, then you leave it up to the courts to decide how to handle your affairs after you're gone. I don't know how you feel, but I would rather have somebody I know, that I have personally put in charge of my estate and my affairs rather than letting a court decide how those issues should be handled.
If you have minor children then it's imperative that you have a will. You want to assign a guardian who is ultimately responsible for your children and for their future endeavors. I love my kids, and I know that I want to have somebody that I love, that I trust, that I know will have their best interests in mind. Imagine leaving that decision up to a court. I couldn't imagine leaving it to a court to decide how they are to be raised and other issues like that. That is another important aspect of having a will.
Do you need a lawyer to draft a will?
In all actuality you don't. A will can be a simple document and by using some great online resources, you can actually draft a will yourself. For your more advanced estate planning techniques, such as doing a bypass trust and other more advanced complex strategies as such, then yes hiring an estate-planning attorney is strongly encouraged.
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By drafting a will, it's simply getting a document in place and choosing the right executor, choosing the right guardian for your children. Those are really the most important aspects of the will that you'll want to encounter.
Disclaimer: I did hire an attorney to draft our will. While places like LegalZoon.com are definitely cheaper, I felt more comfortable shelling out a few hundred bucks to an attorney that I knew and trusted make our wills for us.
How do you get started when drafting a will?
As I mentioned earlier, the most important process is just getting started, and the way you do that is trying to figure out who you want to handle your affairs in the case that you are gone. In that case that will be your executor. The executor will be that person that you've deemed worthy enough or responsible enough to execute the will the way that you deemed it to be distributed.
The other aspect if you have minor children is deciding who that guardian is going to be. By naming that guardian in the will, that will be the person that is ultimately responsible for your children and for all their future endeavors.
Lastly, it's just deciding to whom you want your property or any assets to be distributed. If you want it divided equally, if you want to set certain parameters as to how that money can be distributed amongst your children, these are the kind of things that you'll want to have laid out in your will.
Information Needed to Draft a Will
As far as any information that you'll want to have before drafting your will, you'll just need a lot of the basic information of names, addresses, dates of birth. You'll want a list of all your assets, all your investments, all your property, IRAs, any real estate, any of that sort. You'll also want a list of all your expenses or debts. That could be your mortgages, your car notes, student loans, etc. Just by compiling all your different assets, all your different liabilities, and devising a check list of all your items, so therefore your will will address all of those.
As you can see there is an inherent need of having a will as part of your estate plan and you don't have to be super rich to have to need one. If you are one of the 55% that don't have a will, I highly encourage you to go out, start seeking some information, and putting some of that information together as far as getting your estate planning in order.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investment(s) may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing.
* According to a report done by Consumer Reports