17 Oct FreeWill makes it easy to create your Last Will and Testament
Despite the critical role that estate planning plays in safeguarding one’s legacy and providing for loved ones, nearly 67% of Americans still do not have an up-to-date will. This information serves as a reminder that taking action on estate planning is essential for individuals and their families.
Estate planning is the process of leaving comprehensive instructions for managing various aspects of life, including finances, healthcare decisions, and more. These plans govern asset management, future care preferences, and the charitable legacies individuals wish to leave behind.
Additionally, estate planning simplifies the probate process, appoints guardians for minors and pets, prevents conflicts over asset distribution among loved ones, and facilitates charitable gifts.
Key components of an effective estate plan include personal identification documents, last will and testament, revocable living trust, beneficiary designations, advance health care directives, financial power of attorney, deeds or titles, and funeral instructions and wishes.
Contrary to common misconceptions, estate planning is not limited to the wealthy. It is a crucial step for individuals from all financial backgrounds. As over $80 trillion is projected to pass from today’s older generations to their heirs in the next two decades, the importance of clear estate planning becomes evident.
To ensure a smooth and seamless estate planning process, individuals embarking on this journey should consider the following:
Professional Assistance: Seek guidance from a licensed estate planning attorney for complex estates or unique family dynamics to ensure all aspects are adequately addressed.
Online Resources: Utilize user-friendly templates on free planning websites for straightforward estate plans. Create a free will online by visiting www.GiveToGrant.org/FreeWill.
Share Your Plan: Distribute copies of your estate plan to relevant parties, including your attorney, beneficiaries, and executors.
Regular Updates: Periodically update your estate plan to reflect changing circumstances and wishes accurately.
The Community Foundation of Grant County encourages individuals to take action with estate planning. We offer the FreeWill tool to simplify the estate planning process, making it convenient to include charitable contributions for the betterment of Grant County.
How FreeWill works to create your Last Will & Testament:
Marriage and Children: Your will should accurately reflect your situation at the time that you sign it. It is generally a good idea to make a new will and update your estate plan whenever you experience a significant life change. For example, you can include updates to your marital status and living biological or adopted children. If you have stepchildren or foster children who are not officially adopted, you can include them as recipients of gifts in your will, but no in this section.
Assets: Listing out major assets helps your executor better handle your affairs by providing information about what assets you have and where they’re held. This section may take a while but is completely optional. You can choose to skip this section and return to it later.
Assets distributed by your will (probate)
– Bank accounts solely owned by you
– Real estate solely owned by you or by tenants in common
– Brokerage accounts solely owned by you
– Personal property or valuables
Assets NOT distributed through your will (non-probate)
– Jointly owned bank or brokerage accounts
– Jointly owned real estate or vehicle
– 401(k) accounts, pensions, IRAs, etc.
– Life insurance
Summary of gifts to charity: FreeWill is free to you because of the support of nonprofit organizations working on meaningful issues. Will you consider leaving a gift in support of a cause that is important to you? Giving 10% is most common. Leaving a percentage gift to charity builds flexibility into your plan because your gift will scale as your assets change.
Pet Care and Pet Caretakers: Pet owners have the option of adding a provision in their Will for the care of their pets. Legally pets are considered property and, therefore, you can’t leave a gift to your pets. However, you can choose someone to take care of your pets, including alternate pet caregivers in case the primary pet caregiver is unable to perform the duty, or unwilling to do so. You can also make a specific cash gift to the pet caregiver which you can request (although not direct) to be used for the care of your pets.
Specific gifts (optional): Here you can choose to leave a specific gift in the form of real estate, vehicles, cash, or any other type of item to a particular individual or individuals. This section is completely optional, as you will have already provided wishes for the distribution of your residual estate.
Executors of your will: The executor does not need to be a lawyer or other legal or financial expert, but should be able to fulfill proper distribution of your property. They can hire professional help if needed.
It’s also a good idea when nominating an executor to select a person who is not a witness to your will, a legal adult at the time the will is executed, and in your state, since some courts only appoint individuals who reside in your state. If you decide to appoint an out-of-state executor, please consult a lawyer or county clerk to make sure your choice will be respected.
People often choose executors who stand to inherit a significant amount of property under the will because the self-interest can help ensure that the property is well-maintained and handled in a timely manner. It is best practice to talk with your chosen executor about their nomination.
Are there any assets that can’t be passed down through a will?: Generally, life insurance benefits, retirement plans, assets owned under joint tenancy with survivorship rights, PoD (payable-on-death) accounts and securities, are considered non-testamentary transfers. This means that the beneficiaries that you list on those accounts take precedence over any provisions you create in this will for those particular parts of your estate. It is best practice to keep beneficiaries on those accounts updated to ensure that your wishes are fulfilled.
Beneficiaries of your residual estate: A primary beneficiary is first in line to inherit property when you pass away. Your residual estate is everything that remains in your probate estate after any gifts of specific property have been distributed, and after your final debts, taxes, and expenses have been settled. Here, you can also specify Secondary and Tertiary Beneficiaries.
Personal Statement: If you would like, you can choose to attach an additional personal statement to your will. Some use this space to document their spiritual or moral values for their next-of-kin, leave a letter to their children or loved ones, provide additional messages for beneficiaries of gifts, or simply to write about their life experiences.
Funeral Wishes: Here you can choose to include wishes for your funeral and final resting place. The wishes you enter will provide instructions to your funeral executor, but please note that they will not be legally binding. It is recommended that you keep these instructions separate from your estate planning documents, as these instructions usually need to be acted upon quickly prior to asset distribution.
Finalize your last will and testament: Your will is ready to be made official! Download a PDF or email a copy to yourself. Once you’ve printed it out, just follow the included instructions to sign and finalize it. Simple!
Notify nominees: It is important you let the people that you’ve nominated know their responsibilities. For each person whose email you provide, we’ll send them information summarizing the duties their nominated role entails for your convenience including Guardian, Pet Guardian, Will Executor, Digital Executor, and/or Funeral Executor.
Sign your will in front of witnesses: You and your witnesses must sign and date your will in the same session. Then store it somewhere safe and let your executors know where they can find it.
Create an Advance Healthcare Directive (Living Will): Take the lead on your end-of-life medical care decisions. Make a plan now, so your family can respect your wishes.
Create a Durable Financial Power of Attorney (DFPOA): Name a person you trust to make decisions about your property and finances if you’re unable to do so.
Create a beneficiary plan: Document and distribute assets that your will does not cover, including 401(k)s, IRAs, and life insurance policies. This is an excellent place to name a charity as your beneficiary.
Prefer to see an attorney?: Download a print summary of your will to review with an attorney. This can save you both time and money!
Other topics included on the FreeWill platform are details for Independent Administration, Digital Executor, Disinheritance Clause, No Contest Clause, Third Party Witnesses, and Mirror Wills among other things.
When including the Community Foundation in estate plans, individuals ensure their charitable goals are met. To get started, or if choosing to include the Community Foundation in a will or trust, please contact us at 765-662-0065. Join the Grant County Pie Society, a community-wide giving society, and become part of a cohort of generous donors who pledge to leave a portion of their accumulated wealth – or a piece of their pie – to charity.
Create your free will online by visiting www.GiveToGrant.org/FreeWill.