RALEIGH, N.C. -- Death is a hard subject to not only think about, but plan for. And when it comes to writing a will, we tend to use every excuse in the book to put it off. But we're throwing those excuses out the window right now because August is "Make a Will" month. Spectrum News anchor Caroline Blair sat down with investment adviser and LifePlan Group President Alex Sutherland, for some useful tips on how to wisely plan for the future.
Sutherland says wills aren’t just for the wealthy, but for anyone who has any asset even if it’s just a car or nice furniture. And if you have minor children, eh says you need to have a will and an estate plan. This is helpful for you, but really it’s more helpful for your loved ones who won’t have to make the hard choices and be under difficulty stress during an already difficulty time. Unfortunately the lack of an estate plan can lead to argument between siblings, can cause them to pay more in taxes, and even go to court to figure out your finances, and who gets what.
Many people get anxious about starting the process of creating a will, so they often put it off. But experts say that shouldn’t be the case. Sutherland says you should simply start by choosing your beneficiaries, or who will get what after you pass away. He says to take inventory of all of your assets including bank accounts, investment properties and jewelry. And it doesn’t have to go to one person, but instead can be divided up between family, friends, co-workers, organizations and institutions. You can also note special instructions in your will, like someone in your family that should receive nothing. But it’s important that during and after major life events like a divorce or death in the family, that you update your will.
Sutherland says it’s important to think long and hard about who you want to be your executor and be responsible for carrying out your will. You can use a family member, a neutral third party, a bank or even a lawyer. You should find someone who is trustworthy and responsible, and in good financial standing. If you do choose a bank or attorney be aware that you could face a fee. You may also want to name a second executor just in case.
If you have young children, financial expert say it’s vital to have a guardian for them outlined in your will. Sutherland recommends talking to that person ahead of time and even naming an alternate guardian. If you choose not to appoint a guardian for your children a judge will appoint one for you, and that may not always be the person you wished. Sutherland also said you may want a different person as the custodian of money or property for your kids to inherit.
Once you have your will written, the big question is where should you store it? Sutherland says to resist hiding the will under your mattress or inside books. He says it’s important to put the will where family members can find it. You can store your the safe at home, but he suggests placing it in a fire and waterproof safe. If you choose a safety deposit box, but make sure you have a joint owner. An option is also making sure your estate planning attorney or financial professional have a copy of the original paperwork.
A will is crucial to estate planning, but it’s not everything. Sutherland says to consider also creating a living will to outline the medical procedures you are and are not okay with. He also says it’s important to have a financial power of attorney and health care power of attorney to make important financial decisions for you. For more information on estate planning, you can visit LifePlan Group’s website.