If the thought of sitting down and drawing up a will with an attorney makes you feel exceptionally uneasy, you are not alone. According to the AARP, about half of people ages 53-71 do not have a will; this percentage drops to about 20 percent for people aged 72 and up.
While it probably never seems like the right time to create a will or a trust and consider the inheritance you will eventually leave for your loved ones, it really is never too early to get going on this important subject. Drawing a will does not mean you are planning to pass away in the near future—it merely means you are planning for your family, and making sure you have made it as easy as possible for your personal representative to take care of your taxes, burial costs, fees and more. It also means that you—not the default law of your state—will not decide who gets your assets.
With all of this in mind, the following tips and strategies can get you started on your estate planning, which is truly one of the nicest gifts you can leave for your loved ones:
Consider Hiring an Attorney Experienced in Wills and Trusts
As U.S. News and World Report notes, a will determines where any assets that are outside of a trust and do not have beneficiaries will go. This can include a home, car, certain bank accounts and personal possessions. When you draw up your will, you should choose someone who will be able to carry out the wishes in the document—this person is called the personal representative or executor. You can also create a trust, which will let you pass on your assets without having to go through the often-lengthy probate process. Make an appointment with an attorney who is knowledgeable in estate planning and can advise you on which option is best for you and your money and belongings, and then create a will or a will and a trust.
Have at Least One “Payable-on-Death” Account
To help pay for your burial or cremation and settle any outstanding bills, it is a good idea to have at least one “payable-on-death” account with your bank or credit union. This will involve naming a beneficiary who can get access to this money when you pass away. Then have a document in your will that clearly states that the money from this account should be used to pay for costs related to your funeral—this way, your executor or whoever you choose to have access to this money will not have to pay out of their own pocket and get paid back later on. Speaking of burials and cremation, you should also have a document in place that states your personal preference; even if you tell your adult children or spouse “I would like to be cremated,” grief can make people forget important points, so this can be included in your documents.
Consider Selling Your Life Insurance Policy
If you decide that you would like to set up a trust, you may want to restructure some of your finances to generate proceeds for the trust. One way to do this is to sell your life insurance policy for cash in a transaction called a life settlement. A life settlement is the sale of your life policy for more than the policy’s surrender value but less than the death benefit. With the help of an established company like Coventry Direct, policyholders can see if they qualify to sell their policy. In addition to receiving a cash payout which, on average, is about about four times larger than the amount you would get by surrendering your policy, you will also save money by eliminating future premium payments.
These Tips are a Great Place to Start
By starting with these three steps, you will be well on your way to handling your estate planning. Find a reputable and experienced attorney in your area—perhaps a friend can recommend someone to you—and start on the will or trust. Look into selling your life insurance and plan for your final expenses, and you will have gone a long way in easing the burden for your loved ones when you do pass away—a long, long time from now.