Ray’s Take: The start of a new year is a great time to get out your will and really read it. If you don’t have one, call your attorney today and get one. I do not recommend that you try and do this yourself or through an online program. Most people do not have financial situations that are so specific that you won’t need a lawyer. And oftentimes self-prepared wills are not executed correctly. I have lived through too many disasters of flawed wills to go there.
If you do have a will, make it a priority to read it annually. You will be amazed at what might need attention. Things change in our lives and estate planning should not be static.
Most people find creating and reviewing their will to be an uncomfortable task, but in actuality you are creating an invaluable resource for your friends and family should something happen to you. Having an updated and comprehensive plan upon death saves those closest to you lots of time and energy during an already difficult time.
When reviewing your will, double-check your beneficiaries. Have you had a birth or death in your family? Did you get married or divorced and need to add or remove a spouse or other family member? Re-evaluate your executor, guardian and trustee. Are these still the people you want in charge of making important decisions about your estate?
At the same time you are reviewing your will, you should also think about other essential estate planning documents like financial and health care-related powers of attorney. These ensure your wishes are carried out while you are still alive but unable to speak for yourself.
Keep in mind that some insurance and retirement policies are not included under your will, so you will want to review the beneficiaries on those documents separately. Beneficiary designations in these areas will override what’s outlined in your will.
Dana’s Take: I think we can all agree that thinking about death, especially our own, is an unpleasant topic that we would all like to avoid. But death is a natural part of life. And having an up-to-date, clear and concise will should give everyone peace of mind, especially you.
Don’t be afraid to communicate your wishes with your loved ones. While it can be scary and uncomfortable to discuss this topic with friends and family, it’s important that those closest to you know what their role is and what to expect.
Your children should know who will take care of them should something happen to you. Creating open dialogue in your home around this topic, may even help you in your decision-making process. Communication provides security and peace of mind that everyone will be taken care of and supported both emotionally and financially should the unthinkable happen.