Wills & Trusts
Your Wishes. Carried Out.
Planning your estate is about caring for your loved ones, seeing they are provided for, and making sure your hard-earned property is distributed according to your wishes.
Your estate consists of all your property, including:
your home and other real estate
tangible personal property such as cars and furniture, and
intangible property like insurance, bank accounts, stocks, and pension and social security benefits.
Isn’t estate planning just for older people or the wealthy?
No. Too many young or middle-aged people die suddenly, often leaving behind minor children who need care and direction. Estate planning should be part of your overall financial plan, along with your children’s college tuition and your retirement needs. If your circumstances change, it’s easy and inexpensive to adjust your plan.
What happens if you don’t plan?
If you die without a will or trust, you’ve in effect left it to state law to write your will for you. That means the state will make certain assumptions about where you’d like your money to go—assumptions with which you might not agree. Some of your hard-earned money might end up with people who don’t need it. Meanwhile, others who might need the money more, or who are more deserving, could be shortchanged. And surviving relatives may squabble over who gets particular items of your property, since you didn’t make these decisions before you died.
What type of information do I need to have together to plan?
Your advisor may have a checklist for you to use. Otherwise, it’s helpful to have as much of the following information as possible:
the names, addresses, and birth dates of all people, whether or not related to you, who you plan to name in your will;
the name, address, and telephone number of the person(s) you expect to name as the executor of your will;
if you have minor children, the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all possible guardians;
the amount and source of your principal income or other income such as interest and dividends;
the amount, source, and beneficiaries of your retirement benefits, including IRAs, pensions, Keogh accounts, government benefits, and profit-sharing plans;
the amount, source, and beneficiaries of other financial assets such as bank accounts, annuities, and loans due you;
the amount of your debts, including mortgages, installment loans, and business debts, if any;
a list with approximate values of property you own, including real estate, jewelry, furniture, collections, heirlooms, and other assets;
a list and description of jointly-owned property and the names of co-owners;
any documents that might affect your estate plan, including prenuptial agreements, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, recent tax returns, existing wills and trust documents, and property deeds;
the location of any safe deposit boxes and an inventory of the contents of each one.