It’s one of the most essential pieces of paperwork, yet most of us don’t have one: a will. Get started with our guidelines.
Did you know the most important piece of your estate plan may be the most basic? It's your will. Your will stipulates how you want your assets distributed, appoints a guardian for any minor children you have, and names an executor or a personal representative to settle your estate and carry out your final wishes. If you die without a will — intestate — a court will generally make these decisions for you.
For help with drafting your will, consider retaining an attorney who specializes in estate planning. Bring the following information to your first meeting.
A list of assets, along with their locations and estimated values, including bank, brokerage, and investment accounts; real estate and other tangible property; jewelry and/or art collections; and other valuables
A list of retirement accounts, along with account numbers and beneficiaries
Names of any charities you plan to benefit
Estate beneficiaries with their contact information
Copies of documents relating to divorce, separation, annulment, or adoptions; property deeds; and any gift-tax forms you've filed
A strategy you might want to consider is setting up a testamentary trust, or trust under will. The trust is created in your will and takes effect at your death. A testamentary trust can be designed to accomplish any number of estate planning goals, including providing for loved ones, implementing tax-saving strategies, or benefiting a charity, among other objectives.
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