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What Do I Need to Know about Wills?

Estate Planning For Life's Stages

write a will
If you die without a will, you die “intestate.” Your assets will be distributed according to your state’s law. That could result in a distribution you didn’t intend.

Some people mistakenly think that not having wills enable their assets to bypass the time and expense of probate.

That’s 100% not true–if you die without a will, your property still must go through probate when there is no surviving joint owner or designated beneficiary, says FedWeek’s recent article entitled “Expressing Your Will with a Will.”

You really should have a will.

If probate avoidance is a concern, you can create a trust. By using a revocable trust, you can retain control over the trust assets while you are alive.

The assets placed in trust during your lifetime can be distributed at your death, under the instructions of the trust, without going through probate.

After you draft a will, do not forget about it.

Significant life events, like births, deaths, marriages and divorces, all may raise the need to revisit your last wishes.

After each change, be certain that your current will is both safe and accessible.

One way to do this is to leave your will with your executor, especially if you name a financial institution rather than an individual.

If you decide to keep your will somewhere else, your executor and other loved ones should know where it is.

The estate planning attorney who prepared your will should have a copy, as well as a memo stating the location of the original.

Regardless of where you put your will, you should have another document for your funeral and burial instructions.

Wills are typically not read until days or weeks after death, so it will not help your family make decisions about a funeral or a memorial service.

As a result, a separate letter should be drafted to state your final wishes. Your executor should know where these instructions can be located.

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Reference: FedWeek (Feb. 22, 2022) “Expressing Your Will with a Will”

Suggested Key Terms: Estate Planning Lawyer, Wills, Executor, Personal Representative, Funeral Arrangements, Burial