Many people are so busy today they don’t take the time to think about tomorrow. But we should all plan for the future and how we want our assets to be distributed after we are gone. Every adult should have a will, yet nearly half of all Americans do not.
A will is a legal document that lets you declare who should receive your assets after your death. It is the backbone of a sound estate plan.
What happens without a will
The old saying “If you don’t have a will, the state has one for you” is true. If you don’t make your wishes known through a valid will, the state will determine where your assets are distributed.
Without a will in place, the courts also have the authority to determine who should be the legal guardian of any minor children.
Drawing a plan
When you are preparing to have a will drawn up, you might start by writing down the names of the people who are most important in your life. Be sure to consider those who depend upon you financially. Then list your assets, including cash, stocks and real estate holdings. In order to avoid confusion or bickering after you are gone, it is also wise to name specific or smaller gifts you want to go to certain individuals.
Finally, if you wish to include charitable donations in your will, be sure to specify those. If you choose to remember The University of Alabama in your will, we will be honored to have your help in providing the best possible education to our students. And remember, by including UA in your plans you are eligible to become a member of The Denny Society. “I am proud to be a member of The Denny Society,” said John Cross of Atlanta, Ga. “Including UA in my plans was an easy decision to make and a simple way to help the University.”
Keep reading for tips on making a will. As always, we are here to answer your questions, so call us and we will be glad to help in any way we can.
Seeking professional help
While it is not a legal requirement to use an attorney to write your will, consulting a professional is a sound move. Your financial advisor or attorney can guide you through the process of drafting your will and provide you peace of mind that your wishes will be honored.
Choosing an executor
Your executor is the person who is charged with settling your estate and carrying out the terms of your will. The person you choose as executor should be someone you trust to follow your wishes and who has a history of making good financial decisions. Duties of an executor include taking inventory of property and belongings, appraising and distributing assets, paying taxes and settling debts owed by the deceased.
If you have minor children, one of the most important decisions you must make is deciding who should be responsible for rearing them if you die before they are grown. After making your choice, be sure to name that person or persons in your will.
The document must clearly state that it is your will.
All wills should name an executor.
The job of executor can be demanding, so it is a good idea to ask the person you have chosen if he or she is willing to serve as your executor.
Laws for wills vary from state to state, so you should consult an attorney if you have moved since you made your will.
If you are married, both you and your spouse should have an up-to-date will in place.
Congress has extended provisions that give you the ability to make tax-free distributions from Traditional or Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA) assets to certain qualified charitable organizations, such as the University. If you are 70½ or older, you may request a direct transfer from your IRA in any amount up to a maximum of $100,000 to a charity by December 31, 2013, without reporting it as taxable income. For couples who each have IRA accounts, it may be possible to transfer up to a maximum of $200,000 between now and the end of 2013. Contact us toll free at 888-875-4438 or visit giving.ua.edu/giftplanning for more information.