During your lifetime, almost no one will know if you don't have a will. But you probably do intend to make a will . . . someday. Unfortunately, that "someday" may never arrive unless you take action today. What kind of action?
- Call an attorney and make an appointment to plan your will. If you do not have an attorney, ask a friend or relative to recommend one, or call your local bar association.
- Before the appointment, sit down with pencil and paper and set out all the goals you would like to accomplish through your will. Write down the names of your intended beneficiaries. You should consider any special needs they may have. Reflect carefully. Plan objectively. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I want to leave everything to my spouse? Should I leave it outright or in trust?
- What happens if my spouse and I were to die within a short time of each other?
- Do I need to name a guardian for minor children or others?
- Are my children mature enough to handle a large, immediate inheritance?
- What does my estate include (cash, real estate, insurance, investments, IRA, etc.)?
- Will my estate be subject to estate tax? How can I avoid or reduce the tax?
- Do I have any assets that require special treatment, such as a closely held business?
- Besides my spouse and children, is anyone else dependent upon me for care (aged parents, friends)?
- Should I continue supporting, after my death, those charitable organizations, such as the American Red Cross, that I assisted during my lifetime?
Finally, visit your attorney. He or she will ask the relevant questions in order to draft the right will for you and your unique situation. Your attorney will make sure the wording is clear, that all possibilities are considered and that your will conforms to state law.
- Keep your will in a safe place and let your family and the person you name as executor know where the will can be found.