Planning for the future means something different to everyone. Some prioritize migrating south after retirement, while others aim to leave a financial legacy. Regardless of your plans for the future, everyone must eventually plan for how (and what) they will leave their loved ones behind.
You may already have someone in mind to inherit your most cherished possessions. Perhaps you would like to leave your house to your firstborn and their family. You may want to secure your grandchild's future or help provide for their education. A Will allows you to specify who should receive what and when.
Keep reading to find out what you should know about leaving your assets to loved ones in your Will:
Take Stock of Your Assets
Before you even begin creating your Will, you may want to assess your financial situation and the belongings you would like to pass down to friends or family. Many people are under the impression that they must have a certain amount of wealth before they need a Will, but that isn't true.
There are numerous advantages to drafting an estate plan, regardless of your tax bracket. Having the correct legal documents in place will make your last wishes known, while also allowing you to name a legal guardian for your dependent children and pets, designate health care agents, and specify potential medical treatment options if you become unable to speak for yourself. And, if you have belongings that you wish to pass down to a loved one after you're gone, a Will ensures that it gets to whom you intend.
You may have put years of work into your home and garden. Raised your family there, hosted years of holiday dinners, and watched your grandkids play in the yard. It is also likely your largest financial asset. It only makes sense that you would want to make sure to leave it to the right person (or people).
Other notable assets to take stock of before finalizing your Will are your vehicle, family heirlooms, cash, bank accounts, retirement funds, stock options, and any other valuable possessions.
Who Should You Leave Your Assets to?
Making one General Bequest leaving your Estate and everything in it to one person may be the simplest way to leave your assets behind. Perhaps you see no reason to specify anyone other than your spouse in your Will. After all, you've long trusted them to keep your best interests in mind in life and see no reason why they wouldn't continue after death. But while this may be convenient, it doesn't work for everyone.
When thinking about what you will leave behind, it's important to consider who would most appreciate a particular asset. Has someone asked for something specific to be included for them in your Will? Perhaps your daughter has always admired the artwork your mother painted and would like to hang it in your home someday. Or maybe you're already planning for your grandchild's sixteenth birthday and want to make sure they get your reliable but still very cool car. More and more families are living in multi-generational households. You may want to leave your house to the child or children who still call it home.
If you have children who don't intend to live in the home after you're gone, you may leave them all a stake in the property, allowing them to decide what to do with the property upon your passing. That might include renting it out, keeping it as a vacation home, or selling it and sharing in the payout from the sale.
Leaving something to all of your children works best if they (or anyone jointly inheriting one asset) get along. If they don't, one or more of your Beneficiaries could try to contest the validity of your Will—a move that could hold up the process of settling your Estate by months or even years.
Every Will must go through Probate Court, the process of settling an Estate. This includes paying off debts, notifying Beneficiaries, filing court documents and final tax returns, and transferring assets to the intended Beneficiaries. Because every Will must go through Probate, it's important to be as specific as possible when naming the Beneficiaries of your Will. To do this, clearly identify the asset and to whom it should go upon your death. To name your home in your Will, simply provide the street address. For example, "My home located at 123 Main St I leave to my children, Ann, Sara, and Tom."
If one of your children wants the family home and the others do not, experts advise making equitable financial arrangements for those who will not inherit the property. While Tom may move his family into 123 Main St, Ann and Sara might receive a cash inheritance equaling the value of what would be their stake in the house.
While it may not immediately seem like it, an inheritance is a responsibility. As such, it's important to consider who among your loved ones is in a position to handle the pressure that would come with your gift. You may have the best intentions at heart when you leave Tom the deed to 123 Main St, but is he financially prepared to keep up with the property taxes? Your gift should be a blessing, not a burden. For this reason, it's wise to talk to those closest to you about your intentions.
Create or Update Your Will Today
No matter who you are or what you hold dear, we all want to provide the best futures for our families. Having an Estate Plan ensures that there is a plan for who will look after your children or pets if something happens to you. It also allows you to make your health care decisions and last wishes known, as well as dictating what will happen to your assets after your death.
Trust & Will makes it easy to make a Will online or update an existing Will. We offer customized, state-specific Wills online created by knowledgeable lawyers starting at just $159. With Trust & Will, a leader in Estate Planning, you'll receive everything you need to ensure your loved ones are taken care of. Create or update your Will online today!