Things peo­ple should know about cre­at­ing wills

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Seniors - METRO

Draft­ing a last will and tes­ta­ment is an es­sen­tial com­po­nent of es­tate plan­ning. De­spite the im­por­tance of hav­ing a will, a re­cent sur­vey from AARP found that two out of five Amer­i­cans over the age of 45 do not have one.

Putting wishes down on pa­per helps avoid un­nec­es­sary work and some­times heartache upon the death of a loved one. Wills al­low heirs to act with the dece­dent’s wishes in mind, and can en­sure that as­sets and pos­ses­sions will end up in the right hands.

Es­tate plan­ning can be tricky, which is why many peo­ple turn to at­tor­neys to get the job done right. At­tor­neys who spe­cial­ize in es­tate plan­ning will no doubt dis­cuss the fol­low­ing top­ics with their clients.

• As­sets owned: Make a list of known as­sets and fig­ure out which as­sets are cov­ered by the will and which will have to be passed on ac­cord­ing to other es­tate laws, such as through joint ten­ancy on a deed or a liv­ing trust. For ex­am­ple, life in­sur­ance poli­cies or re­tire­ment plan pro­ceeds will be dis­trib­uted to your named ben­e­fi­cia­ries. A will also can cover other as­sets, such as pho­to­graphs, cloth­ing, cars, and jew­elry.

• Guardian­ship: Par­ents’ wills should in­clude a dec­la­ra­tion of who they want to be­come guardians their un­der­age chil­dren or dependents.

• Pets: Some peo­ple pre­fer to use their will to also dic­tate guardian­ship for their pets and to leave money or prop­erty to help care for those pets. How­ever, pets do not have the le­gal ca­pac­ity to own prop­erty, so one shouldn’t gift money di­rectly to pets in a will.

• Fu­neral in­struc­tions: Set­tling pro­bate will not hap­pen un­til after the fu­neral. There­fore, fu­neral wishes in a will often go un­no­ticed, states the le­gal ad­vise­ment re­source Find Law.

• Ex­ecu­tor: An ex­ecu­tor is a trusted per­son who will carry out the terms of the will. This per­son should be will­ing to serve and be ca­pa­ble of ex­e­cut­ing the will.

Peo­ple who die with­out a valid will be­come in­tes­tate. This means the es­tate will be set­tled based on the laws of where that per­son lived, and a court-ap­pointed ad­min­is­tra­tor will serve in the ca­pac­ity to trans­fer prop­erty. This ad­min­is­tra­tor will be bound by laws and may make de­ci­sions that go against the dece­dent’s wishes. To avoid this out­come, a will and other es­tate plan­ning doc­u­ments are cru­cial.

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