What Is Estate Planning?
You’ve probably heard friends or relatives mention estate planning. It’s the process of arranging the dispersal of your assets in the event of your death—i.e., creating a will. I know, who wants to think about dying, right? Writing a will seems like something very elderly people do.
If you’re young and healthy, you don’t have to give death too much thought, but it is good to be prepared for anything, simply for your peace of mind. That’s why you should pursue the creation of a will today, even though you’re anticipating many more years of life. Once you’ve completed your will, you can be confident that your assets will be distributed to the people of your choosing after you’re gone.
If you happen to die without a will, the state will manage your assets and distribute them according to a preset formula. That means they might not be divided up exactly as you’d like. Furthermore, if you haven’t provided explicit guidance about the kind of memorial you’d like, your family will have to make an educated guess. That’s why it’s so important to leave specific instructions for them (and for their lawyers). Additionally, having a protective legal document in place can help to prevent your loved ones from dealing with sudden financial anxiety at an already stressful time.
Here are just some of the assets you might include in your will:
- Any real estate you own, including your primary residence. If you have a mortgage, note that the person who inherits your property (like your spouse) will also inherit any remaining mortgage balance. You’ll definitely want to plan accordingly.
- Key parts of your investment portfolio, like stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Note that your will doesn’t include your retirement accounts, like your 401K or IRA account. You designate a beneficiary as soon as you open that kind of account.
- The money in your checking and savings accounts.
- Any business you own, in whole or in part.
- Your physical possessions. If there’s something specific you want to pass on to a particular loved one, your will is the place to make it known.
- Money designated for your final expenses, like a funeral service and burial. End-of-life costs can reach up to $20,000. Protect your family from financial stress by earmarking funds for your last expenses well in advance.
If you are the parent of children under the age of 18, your will should also include your wishes regarding their care. Without this designation, the custody decision is left to your state’s family court. To avoid this, it’s vitally important that you explore how to nominate a legal guardian for your children when you’re preparing your will.
In addition to your will, you may elect to set up a trust. A trust allows a third party to manage assets on behalf of a beneficiary, like one of your children. If you appoint legal guardians for your minor children, for example, you might also designate one of them as your trustee. That person would manage the money in your children’s trust fund(s) until they reach adulthood. Wills and trusts work together to ensure that your children are cared and provided for. They also make sure your financial assets and other property wind up in the right hands.
Is Online Estate Planning Right for You?
It used to be that you needed to consult with an estate attorney and/or financial planning professional to create a will or trust. That option is still on the table if you feel that you need expert guidance, but it’s no longer the only way. Today, you can create legal estate planning documents online with a service like Trust & Will.
Trust & Will’s plans start at just $39, which is much less than you’d spend for an hour with an estate planning professional. You can create a trust and a will and nominate legal guardians for your children or choose options a la carte. Trust & Will includes provisions for your end-of-life healthcare decisions, like granting power of attorney to a loved one in the event that you’re unable to make medical decisions. It also allows you to state your wishes for a funeral or memorial service, burial or cremation, and final resting place.
Could you use some professional advice along the way? That’s completely understandable! Trust & Will makes it possible for you to consult with an attorney or check in with an expert as you go. If you’re confused or have a special question or concern, simply click “Live Attorney Support” for guidance.
At this point, you may be wondering: Is the document I create through Trust & Will legally binding? The answer is that, yes, online trusts and wills are legitimate as long as the company you use complies with state and federal laws. Once you’ve finished the process, you can print copies for your executor(s) and/or trustee(s) and for your safety deposit box.
So, is online estate planning the right choice for you? In most cases, using an online will-making service like Trust & Will is a great option. You can ask for professional help if you need it, without incurring the cost of an in-person consultation. Isn’t it time you took a smart step to protect your loved ones? Thanks to services like Trust & Will, you can get started today.