Wills and Estates

Do you have a will? Between half and two-thirds of American adults don’t. Do you need one? Only if you answer yes to any of the questions below:

1. Do you care who gets your property if you die?
2. Do you care who gets your money if you die?
3. Do you care who is appointed guardian of your minor children if you die?

06Who Needs A Will?

Wills are not just for the rich. Regardless of how much or how little money you have, a will ensures that whatever personal belongings and assets you do have will go to family or beneficiaries you designate. Without a will, the court makes these decisions.

If you have children, a will is a must, to ensure that you get to choose your children’s guardian. Few people plan to die in the near future, but if you die suddenly without a will, you’ll be subjecting your family and loved ones to confusion and anxiety at what is already a difficult time.

There are other benefits to having a will, including tax benefits.

How Do You Get Started?

At a minimum, a will should do the following: appoint a guardian if you have minor children, appoint an executor to administer your will when you die, and spell out specifically how you want your property distributed.

The first step in deciding how you want your property distributed is gathering information. You’ll need the following:

Names, addresses, and birth dates for you, your spouse, your children, proposed guardians, and executor of your estate.

Amounts of all debts, including mortgages, car loans, student loans, business loans, and credit card accounts.

Copies of existing wills, trusts, divorce decrees, prenuptial agreements and any other legal documents that might affect a will.

A list of assets, including detailed information about the following:

• Real estate
• Savings (bank accounts, CDs, money markets)
• Investments (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, CDs)
• Life insurance policies
• 401(k), IRA, pension/retirement accounts
• Life insurance policies and annuities
• Ownership interest in a business
• Cars, boats, planes and other vehicles
• Jewelry
• Collectibles
• Artwork
• Antiques
• Furniture
• Other personal property