This is a guest post by Daniela Baker from CreditDonkey
Approximately half of all Americans die without a will. For those without one, the court steps in to divide up the property according to state laws. Because making a will should be a relatively simple process, this scenario can be avoided. You can create one through an attorney or on your own. Here are six important things to consider before making yours.
- To Whom It May Concern – The people in your will are probably the most important aspect of this legal document. According to the National Caregivers Library, in the U.S. this includes your beneficiaries, executor, guardian of any children, and alternates in case the original people pass away or are no longer able to serve. List names, addresses, and relationship to all people in your will. Consult an attorney about any other possible requirements or concerns.If you wish to exclude anyone from your will, it can be tricky. You need to consult your attorney to ensure this is done properly.
- In Perfect Harmony – The National Caregivers Library website also states that beneficiaries on life insurance policies, annuities, and individual retirement accounts should correspond with your current wishes.
- Taxes: Life’s Other Certainty – There may be multiple taxes to consider depending on where you live. These taxes can affect the amount your heirs ultimately receive and have other consequences, such as the ability to keep land in the family. According to bankrate.com, in 2011 U.S. estates valued at $5 million or less are exempt from the federal estate tax. Estates valued more than this amount are taxed at 35%. Make sure you consult your attorney, insurance agent, and other appropriate professionals about the best plan for you and your heirs. You should remember to discuss with your estate planner how debt such as credit card debt is handled.
- Seasons of Change – You may need to make revisions or even redraft your will after certain events. Talk to your attorney. Some of these events, listed in a New Mexico State University publication, include but may not be limited to:
- Birth of children
- Death in the family
- Accident or illness
- Move to another state
- Change in value of property
- New laws that effect distribution of property
- Death of beneficiaries, guardians, executors, or others in your will
- Can I Have Your Autograph? – There may be certain requirements regarding the signing of your will, such as the number and age of witnesses. There may be a number of other requirements depending on the laws in your region. Remember to consult your attorney to ensure everything is done to make your will legal and valid.
- For Safekeeping – There are a variety of places you can keep your will. Some of these options include in your own possession, in a safe-deposit box, with your attorney, on file with the probate or surrogate’s court (U.S.), or with a trust institution. There are pros and cons with each option, so consult your attorney before deciding upon the best place to keep your will.
Before you start, do not forget to include your full name and address and list full information regarding your assets, including those out of state (or out of country). This list is not exhaustive, but is meant to highlight a few important issues in hopes you will be better educated about this serious issue. Hopefully, this off-putting task should now be a little more tolerable.