One of the most important things you can do in creating a financial plan is to prepare a will. A will gives instructions to your family/survivors on how to distribute your “estate” after you cross the threshold. Your estate is everything you own – house, car, savings account, insurance, and all personal property. Most people are surprised to find that the total value of their worldly possessions is greater than they imagine. Regardless of the size of your estate, it is very important to have a will. Without a will, the distribution of your property will be dictated by the laws of your state. Furthermore, if you have minor children, you will want to elect guardians who will attend to their continued well-being.
Who needs a will?
Everyone. For those who are left to distribute your assets, it is a relief to know what you intended. A spouse can make tax-wise decisions to benefit the surviving partner. As you face life changes along the way, it is important to update your will to reflect your wishes and provide for the needs of those you love.
How do I write a will?
Your will should reflect the things of importance to you during your lifetime. Make a list of your dependents or people for whom you are responsible. Make a list of your property, stocks, cash, cars, life insurance, IRAs and any other assets and valuable possessions. Next, think of any person or charity you would like to remember. Next, take your lists to a legal advisor. A legal professional familiar with the laws of your state is the best person to prepare your will, although a simple will can be done quickly using one of several online or software programs available (see Resources).
Benefits of a Will
With a will:
- You direct the distribution of your assets and can provide for family members, friends, or relatives according to your wishes;
- You choose an executor who oversees the distribution of your assets;
- You can provide appropriately for minor children by naming a guardian or establishing a trust;
- You avoid unnecessary expenses on the administration of the estate;
- You can minimize estate taxes by utilizing proper estate planning techniques;
- You can provide support to charitable causes that have a special meaning for you.
Without a will:
- State laws determine the distribution of your property;
- The court appoints an administrator for you;
- Because the administrator is subject to constant court supervision, the cost of administering the estate may be greater;
- Your heirs will benefit equally by class, not necessarily in the proportions you would have intended;
- You cannot provide for minors. The court will appoint a guardian for them, and the guardian will make decisions about a child’s care that you should have made;
- Your estate may lose thousands of dollars in needless taxes because you did not take advantage of the tax-saving vehicles available to you;
- You cannot support a charitable cause.
Including The Christian Community in Your Will
There are several ways that you can be a steward of The Christian Community through your will.
- Specific amount: State a specific dollar amount (you should review your will regularly).
- Gift by percentage: Give a percentage of a particular asset, or a percentage of your entire estate.
- Residual bequest: Give the remainder of your estate after your survivors have received their inheritance.
If you would like to have a conversation about leaving a provision in your will to The Christian Community of North America, please contact Kate Kennedy, Legacy Giving Coordinator, at 845-425-5705 or firstname.lastname@example.org.