Did You Know? August is Make-A-Will Month

Local Financial Advisor Barry Bigelow Offers Tips When it Comes to Planning for the Unknown

DULUTH, Minn. – When it comes to writing a will, we use every excuse in the book to put it off.

But those excuses end this summer because August is Make-A-Will Month.

Local Financial Professional Barry Bigelow with Great Waters Financial stopped by FOX 21 Local News to offer a few steps to get started when it comes to planning.

Who really needs a will?

  • Wills aren’t just for the wealthy.
  • Anyone with assets – even just a car and some nice furniture – and anyone with minor children should have a will and an estate plan.
  • A will is a key part of estate planning, which is all about protecting your loved ones after you pass away.
  • An estate plan can prevent arguments between siblings; it can keep family members from paying too much in taxes; it can help avoid court proceedings to sort out your finances.
  • By focusing on your estate plan now, you can save your family a lot of headaches later on.

What is the first step in writing a will?

  • It starts with choosing your beneficiaries or deciding who will get what after you pass away.
  • Take inventory of all your assets, including bank accounts, investments, property, and jewelry.
  • You can divide it among family members, friends, organizations or institutions.
  • If there is someone in your family you want to receive nothing, you can include that in your will.
  • Don’t forget to update your beneficiaries with every major life event, like births, deaths, marriages, and divorces.

The next step involves naming an executor. What do they do?

  • An executor is responsible for carrying out your will.
  • You can choose a family member or a neutral third party, like a bank or lawyer.
  • If you choose a family member, pick someone who is responsible, trustworthy and in good financial standing. I recommend asking them ahead of time.
  • If you choose a bank or lawyer, they will typically charge fees, up to 5% of your estate. (Source if you choose to use stat: Kiplinger)
  • You can also name a second executor as a successor to the first.

What about young children?

  • If you have young children, you will want to appoint a guardian for them in your will.
  • Again, I recommend talking to the person ahead of time and possibly naming an alternate guardian.
  • If you do not appoint a guardian for your kids, a judge will choose someone.
  • You may also want to name a different person as the custodian of any money or property your kids inherit to avoid conflicts of interest.

Once your will is written, where is a safe place to keep it?

  • Resist the urge to hide your will under your mattress or inside books. You want to make sure your loved ones can find it after you pass away.
  • You can store your will in a fire and waterproof safe in your home, as long as someone knows how to access it.
  • If you choose a safe deposit box, add a person you trust as a joint owner.
  • Your estate planning attorney or financial professional can also keep your estate planning documents, or signed copies in case something happens to the original paperwork.

A will is a good first step, but it’s not the only step.

  • A will is the cornerstone of an estate plan, but it does not cover everything.
  • Consider creating a living will to outline the medical procedures you do and don’t want, like when to resuscitate or discontinue life support.
  • You’ll also want to name a financial power of attorney and a health care power of attorney to make important decisions for you if you are unable to do so.
  • For more on estate planning, check out the estate planning checklist on my website, greatwatersfinancial.com
  • I also recommend you sit down with a financial professional and estate attorney to make sure you and your family are covered.
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