By: John M. Campanola, Agent New York Life Insurance Company Special to the Boca and Delray newspapers
Have you put off making a will? If so, you’re not alone. According to a 2017 survey conducted by Caring.com, only 42 percent of American adults have estate planning documents, like wills and living trusts, in place. And for those with children under age 18, the percentage is even lower—36 percent.
While preparing a will may not be the most pleasant way to spend an afternoon, it could be the most productive—especially for your heirs. Without a valid will, your assets could be tied up in probate court for months, possibly years. What’s more, the court will be forced to make decisions that may not conform to your wishes.
Why are so many people reluctant to take this basic—but important—step? In many cases, it is the result of five common misconceptions:
- I’m not wealthy enough to need a will.
If you consider the value of your car, furniture, and other worldly possessions, you may be worth more than you think. Plus, some items may have sentimental value to your heirs and will need to be distributed fairly. You can also use a will to make legal arrangements—such as naming a guardian for your minor children—that have nothing to do with your wealth.
- My spouse will inherit everything.
In fact, children from a previous marriage may be entitled to some assets. Plus, there’s always a chance that you and your spouse could pass away at the same time. If so, the distribution of assets could get tricky. Also, be aware that assets with a designated beneficiary, such as life insurance, IRAs, or 401(k)s, may bypass your spouse if he or she is not named as the beneficiary. So check periodically to make sure your beneficiaries are up to date.
- All my assets are jointly titled.
Legal titles, such as Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship (JTWROS), can be helpful when it comes to transitioning financial accounts. In some cases, however, they can make things more complicated—especially if the joint owner has also passed away and no further instructions have been provided.
- I don’t have any heirs.
If you don’t have any surviving family members, your assets can still be put to good use. You can leave them to a trusted friend, to your alma mater, or to a favorite charity.
- I’m not ready to set my final wishes in stone.
Updating a will is very common and, because circumstances can change, almost expected. Once the basic framework is in place, adjustments are relatively easy to make and can usually be done at a modest cost.
This educational third-party article is provided as a courtesy by John M. Campanola, Agent, New York Life Insurance Company. To learn more about the information or topics discussed, please contact John M. Campanola at 561-642-5180. Neither New York Life, nor its agents, provides tax, legal, or accounting advice. Please consult with your professional advisor for tax, legal or accounting advice.