Knowing when to finalize your will can be a difficult but incredibly important process. Here’s what you need to know when it comes to drafting and finalizing your will.
A will allows you to distribute property and assets to whomever you wish or to dispose of these things in the manner you choose. Be aware that there are different regulations for wills depending on what state you reside in. If you die without a will, your state’s laws will decide who receives your property by default, but the typical distribution would be to your spouse, children, and other family members.
Types of Wills & What They Can Include
A will can be used to accomplish various family and tax objectives and can be increasingly complex depending on what you choose to include.
A Simple Will is a straightforward gifting of property and assets, while a Testamentary Trust Will creates one or more trusts upon death. A Pour-Over Will, also referred to as a Revocable Living Trust, is used when certain assets are left to a pre-existing trust created during one’s lifetime. These trusts are developed for continued property management, divorce and creditor protection for surviving family members, minimization of taxes, or provisions for charities.
Other objectives a will can accomplish include:
- Designating a guardian for a child who is a minor.
- Choosing a personal representative as an executor of your will and estate. This can get rid of the need for a bond and may even eliminate the need for court supervision in the settlement of your estate.
- Leaving assets and property to people whom the state might not otherwise recognize including godchildren, stepchildren, friends, or charities.
Certain types of assets, called non-probate property, can’t be transferred through a will. For example, an insurance policy owing to a named beneficiary would pass to that person or organization regardless of your will.
How to Sign Your Will
Depending on the state, you must have at least two witnesses who have no potential conflict of interest sign your will. Errors within a will can be costly to fix, so ensure that you have a professional review of your will to avoid complications for your succeeding family.
Finalizing & Reviewing Your Will
There’s no single time that’s best to finalize your will; however, it should be maintained and reviewed every 2-3 years. Consider it good practice to review your will after every major life event such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child.
Otherwise, it’s up to you to determine how often you update your will. Just remember only the most current version of your will at the time of death will be recognized. If there are substantive changes to be made, it can be easiest to revoke your old will and write a new one.
Where Should You Keep Your Will?
Although it may seem like a good idea to keep your will safe with a bank or another organization, this could make it inaccessible to your family at your time of death. In this situation, they may need to get a court order just to access your will. It’s best to store it in a fireproof and waterproof safe within your house.
Have you talked to your loved ones about finalizing your will? Start the conversation today to ensure that your assets are adequately protected. For more information on how our helpful staff can help you get peace of mind and address future care needs, visit us online or give us a call at (516) 496-1505.