Do you have a will? According to Consumer Reports, 56% of Americans do not have a Last Will and Testament. Even though you may think you are in good company with those who have gone before you without a will such as Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses Grant, James Garfield and many more well known individuals – think again.
If you don’t have a will, the state in which you live has a plan of distribution for you, and that plan may not be the plan you had in mind.
A person who dies without establishing a will passes away intestate. The opportunity to direct the distribution of a lifetime accumulation of personal possessions, real estate, and wealth can be lost without establishing a will. In the state of Nebraska, one-half of your estate will go to your surviving spouse with the balance divided equally among the children. If there is no surviving spouse or children, then any parents, siblings and more remote relatives may lay claim to a share of your estate. There is no consideration for any other interests you may want to provide for. If no relatives come forward, the assets will pass to the state.
A will controls only a portion of one’s property at death. Jointly-owned property and property with named beneficiaries may pass to them automatically. Understanding how property is owned and proper titling of property is as important as a good plan of distribution.
You will need to name a personal representative to settle your estate. How do you determine who is the best person for the job? If you don’t decide, the courts will decide for you. Maybe a corporate fiduciary such as a Bank’s Trust Department is the right personal representative to manage your estate and bring your financial affairs to an orderly conclusion.
A will can also provide a financial management plan within a trust. A trust can benefit a surviving spouse, children from prior marriages, and spouses who are not American citizens. Trusts can maximize protection from federal estate taxes, protect minor children’s inheritance and those with special needs, provide for charities, and much more.
A will also allows you the opportunity to name the person(s) who will raise and care for your minor children.
Do you want to leave this decision to the courts?
If you don’t have a will, contact an estate planning attorney or a trust officer to set an appointment to discuss developing one. If you have a will, you may still need a consultation, given passing of time and the uncertainty of today’s tax laws.