If you don’t have a will, you certainly aren’t alone. A 2016 survey conducted by Google Consumer Surveys showed that 63% of Americans do not have a will. If you add the 8.6% who said they had one but it contained out-of-date information, more than 70% of Americans are unprepared. No one likes to think about their demise, but we are all subject to this reality.
If you haven’t decided for yourself what happens to your life’s work after your death, the state in which you live will step-in and make those decisions for you. This may end up creating significant family and financial issues. For instance, in many states 100% of your assets won’t go to your surviving spouse. Only 50% will go to them and the remaining 50% will go to your kids. More importantly, if you have minor children, a will allows you, not the courts, to decide who serves as the guardian of your children.
Let’s look at some other ways to ensure it’s you who are making the decisions about you and your family.
An Advanced Directive for Healthcare spells out your wishes for care if you become unable to act on your own behalf.
Be sure you keep beneficiary designations current. Life insurance policies, IRA’s and other plans that allow you to name a beneficiary pass their assets to the designated beneficiary regardless of what your will may direct or your state’s after death distribution requirements are. For example, if beneficiary designations aren’t updated after a divorce, your life insurance and investments go to an ex-spouse and the new spouse and family will not get a dime.
As you are planning, you may want to go ahead and avoid the red-tape of the probate process required to settle your estate with a will. Or you may have very specific desires for how your assets are to be managed to benefit family, friends or charities. In this case, you can create a Trust to control how your assets are distributed and used.
No matter how you choose to plan, it is critical that you do. Keep in mind, it’s not just about avoiding potential hardships, you can also accomplish some wonderful things. You may decide to have stuffed animals purchased for the children’s hospital, fund a Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless or send your favorite niece on a cruise. It’s your legacy – you decide!
QNB Trust offers wealth management services to help you create a strategy to protect and distribute your wealth.