Planning For The End: Why Your Will Is Important

Why Have a Will?

Perhaps one of the most common answers to the above question is that a responsible adult should have a Will. However, the benefits of a Will go far beyond satisfying an internal sense of responsibility to your family and loved ones.

Some of the benefits of a Will are expected. Perhaps the most common benefits that come to mind are the opportunity to statewho should be in charge of the distribution of your probate assets (it is important to remember that Wills do not govern thedistribution of joint assets or assets such as retirement plans and life insurance that pass by beneficiary designation) and howshould those assets be distributed to a beneficiary (outright or in trust). Beyond those common benefits are the opportunitiesto address subtleties such as which beneficiaries should pay the inheritance taxes due on the transfer of your assets. Shouldthose taxes be paid by the residuary beneficiary even if assets are being distributed as specific bequests to friends whom willlikely pay inheritance tax at a higher rate than the residuary beneficiary (that is at least commonly the case in Pennsylvania).Additional considerations include determining which assets should be distributed to which beneficiaries. For example, a RothIRA should never be distributed to a charity and it is far better to use a traditional IRA or retirement plan to fund a charitablebequest than funding that charitable bequest with after-tax assets under a Will.

Preparing or Updating a Will Should Give You Peace of Mind

Despite the above stated positive benefits of a Will, I believe the best benefits of preparing a Will are organizing your affairs.The exercise of preparing a Will should force you to do a formal inventory of your assets and cause you to ask questions suchas Am I on track for retirement?, Will my assets last for my lifetime?, How do I want to be remembered? Would my loved onesbe able to continue my investment philosophy if I pass away? Could my loved ones find all of my important papers and, if theycan, would they know whom to contact first to take care of the administration of my estate?When we complete estate plans at our office, our goal is not nearly to document your wishes but rather to leave detailedinstructions to leave your family prepared to handle the distribution of your assets and to give you peace of mind. Why gothrough the hassle of meeting with an attorney, sharing some of your most private thoughts and thinking about your mortality ifyou cannot have true peace of mind as an outcome?

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