Preparing Your Will: What To Consider and How To Take The First Steps
We can’t control the future, but we can make sure that we’re prepared for it. While the implications of preparing your will aren’t what you want in the front of your mind, having this documentation is arguably one of the most important things you can do for both yourself and your family.
Even if you already have a will, it’s best to ensure that as life changes, it does too. But you don’t have to figure it out on your own. Our financial advisors are here to walk with you through the entire process. Here are a few things to consider when preparing — or reviewing — your will.
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Listing Your Significant Assets
What does your estate include? While this includes bank accounts, property, life insurance policies, and other accounts, each asset falls into a specific category.
Individually owned assets are any accounts that are in your name and are passed on based on the direction in your will.
Joint assets are held in both your name and your spouse’s (or other individuals’) names. Additionally, join assets fall under two categories:
- “With rights of survivorship” — assets automatically become the property of the surviving joint owner unless otherwise retitles
- “In common” — assets where the joint owner retains their ownership share, and ownership of your share will be determined by a beneficiary designation on the account or by your will
Beneficiary designated assets such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other assets that will go to the beneficiary named on the account.
Closely held business interests, where your ownership in an LLC is often first offered to surviving partners or owners before the heirs named in your will.
In addition to your significant assets and accounts, you still have all your personal property to consider. Known as tangible personal property (TPP), this includes jewelry, family heirlooms, furniture, cars, and business equipment. Any specific items you want to designate to a friend or family member will be listed in a separate memo. While this memo will be kept with the will, you can easily update it without updating the entire will.
Determining Your Executor
Whom do you want to handle your will after you’re gone? Often this role is given first to your spouse and then to a child or children. Whomever you choose, consider their relationship with you, their capacity to handle such an important task, and their ability to be fair and unbiased during the process.
Sharing Your Wealth
Collecting your asset list and determining your executor set the foundation for more significant questions about how you want to share your wealth.
Your advisor can walk you through questions such as:
- Do you want to give anything to a charity or a nonprofit organization?
- Do you have grandchildren that you want to provide for financially?
- Is there someone in your life, outside of your immediate family, that you want to include?
- Will you be dividing your assets equally among your children, or do you want to create unique plans that fit each of their lives?
- If you are a partner in a business, do you have a succession plan in place?
While many people are able to plan their will years in advance, answering these questions now helps you determine the type of legacy you want to leave, and how your wealth can further those desires.
Sharing Your Vision
Sharing your vision for your legacy and will is just as important as the will itself. Our financial advisors always recommend a sit-down conversation with your family to share your plan and the desires behind it.
Too often, we have seen that when individuals don’t thoroughly communicate their financial plan to their family, their beneficiaries frequently misunderstand the legacy they were trying to leave. By communicating your estate plan and the values that drove your decisions, you can foster transparency and clarity instead of confusion and frustration.
These considerations are great starting points for your will and legacy plan, but each individual will have their own aspects to consider based on their family, finances, and career.
If you have questions about updating your will, or how to create an estate plan that is clear and comprehensive, reach out to us!