Are you a woman with a mission? Do you know exactly what you’re doing tomorrow? Have you made a five or 10-year plan for yourself? How about a plan for after your death?
Particularly when we’re feeling young and invincible, that time may seem too far off to even think about. But, if you don’t have a legal plan for after you’re gone, the state has one for you. Decisions regarding your property and who will raise your children could be left to total strangers.
The purpose of a will is to protect your loved ones by distributing your property to whom you want, when you want and how you want it. Additionally, expenses and taxes may be avoided with the appropriate will. If you want to help spare your family from the legal problems of intestate (the term for dying without a will), here are five ways you can create a will.
Write Your Own Will
You can write the entire document by hand or print one and sign it alongside witnesses. Be careful not to mix the two, though. A typewritten will that has handwriting other than a signature may cause problems in the court system. Make sure to verify the legal requirements for a will in your state before deciding on a course of action.
Purchase an Online Legal Service or a Will Kit
If you prefer to avoid the hand cramps that may come with writing out your will, this may be the option for you. The advantages of this method include access to a hotline for questions, referrals to estate-planning attorneys and a road-tested template. Property ownership and tax implications may vary dramatically from state to state, so it’s a good idea to consider how the digital services address these differences. Mistakes regarding tax issues may be quite costly if handled improperly. A good general rule: The smaller the estate, the smaller the potential for mistakes. For simple estates with few assets, such as a home, bank account and retirement plan, an online service may suffice. If your estate is larger, it may be time to seek out more personalized advice.
Call Your General Attorney
This option may help you craft a will that is more tailored to your specific situation, and the attorney may give you feedback throughout the process. In the event of a large taxable estate or if your attorney is not comfortable in estate planning, don't be surprised if she refers you to a specialist.
Hire a Specialist
The credential that bears the most currency in estate planning is Certified in Estate and Probate. You might want to go this route if you have a large estate or some complex decisions that require individualized attention. A specialist’s services may cost more initially, but their expertise will likely save time and therefore, ultimately, money. Another advantage to hiring a specialist is that she can help you determine whether a living will may be preferable to a traditional will in your particular situation.
Consider a Living Will
A specialist may be able to help you establish a living will, which enables you to transfer your property to a trust while you’re alive. The potential advantage of this is that it may help your estate avoid probate (the process of transferring the titling of assets away from the deceased's name to one or several survivors), reduce future court expenses, consolidate wealth and allow you to control the ultimate distribution of your assets. Avoiding probate is especially important in states where there is a high fixed percentage of the estate value or mandated expenses. This solution may not be beneficial for everyone, but seeking the advice of an expert can help you determine whether or not a living will suits your financial needs.
Two individuals with identical assets may have very different objectives, and therefore, wills. Writing a will is a personal experience, so different options will work better for different people, and it may take some time to find the one that will suit you.
Have you made a will yet? If not, what’s holding you back?
Deborah Stavis is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.
Securities offered through FSC Securities Corporation, member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory and insurance services offered through Stavis & Cohen Financial, a registered investment advisor not affiliated with FSC Securities Corporation.
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This material is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax or legal advice. Neither FSC Securities Corporation nor Stavis & Cohen Financial provide tax or legal advice. As with all matters of a tax or legal nature, you should consult with your tax or legal counsel for advice.