With the recent death of Aretha Franklin and the news of her passing without having a will or trust in place – she is not alone. According to a Gallup poll, only 44% of individuals stated they have a will in place. The poll also found that those who are older are more likely to have a will in place, whereas only 14% of those under the age of thirty have wills.
The importance of a will
A will is a document that allows the distribution of assets according to the deceased wishes. If a person dies without a will, that person is determined to die “intestate.” In this case, the assets are distributed according to state law for which the deceased resides.
Putting a will in place
If it is your desire to distribute your assets differently, you should consider speaking with an attorney about your desires. However, if you cannot afford an attorney, consider seeking nonprofits that provide pro-bono legal services for those who qualify. Here in the state of Louisiana, the Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (slls.org) provides this type of assistance. Also, you may want to check websites, such as Rocketlawyer.com, which provides low-cost legal documents. But remember, while these are all great options, having an attorney to review your will is extremely important.
Take time to update beneficiaries on accounts
Keep in mind, that assets without a named beneficiary will have to go through a probate process. This is the process of assets that are not specifically assigned to an heir by will or as a named beneficiary. Therefore, it is a good idea to make certain accounts such as 401k plans, life insurance proceeds, bank accounts, and other financial accounts have updated beneficiaries. Take time to review these accounts to make certain your beneficiaries are updated.
Make a listing of important financial information
If something would happen to you today, will your loved ones know about financial status? For instance, will they know where your will is located? Who holds your mortgage? What insurance company holds your life insurance policy? What are your final wishes? Or quite simply, will you want someone to have personal passwords to take care of personal matters? As such, you should take the time to make a listing of important financial documents that can assist you in the process. I put a great book together that can help you put your financial information in order!
Remember your choice, your future!
Kemberley Washington, CPA owns Washington CPA Services and writes financial tips at Kemberley.com. She is an author, financial news contributor and a foodie! Check her out on social media at @kemwashcpa.