A will is just one of a handful of documents every adult should have in place to protect themselves while they are living, and their heirs and families after they have passed. Following are the “5 estate planning must-haves,” according to an article from the Augusta Free Press:
- Wills and Trusts. Your will directs the distribution of your assets. Without a will, the court will determine who gets your possessions, real property and any other assets, following the laws of your state. Depending on your situation, you and your heirs may benefit from setting up trusts to protect your assets from the probate process, maintain your privacy and possibly avoid some taxes. Keep in mind that if the will or trust is not created properly or doesn’t follow your state’s laws, it could be challenged or deemed invalid. Work with an experienced estate planning attorney to protect your family.
- Many of your accounts—bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, insurance policies—may already have a named beneficiary, who will inherit the account upon your death. However, if you have not updated those names recently, you may find the wrong person inheriting your assets. Once that occurs, there is no legal means of transferring the assets to another person. Always make sure you have a contingent beneficiary, so if the primary beneficiary dies before you, or for some reason declines to accept the asset, you will have had an opportunity to choose another person to receive the asset. If there is no contingent beneficiary, the court may make that decision.
- Letter of Intent. It must be said that this is not a legally binding document. However, the information it could provide to your loved ones might be very helpful, as they move through the process of settling your estate. It can explain why you structured your asset distribution the way you did, why you would want a given family heirloom passed to a specific family member, or what you would like to have happen at your funeral. If you are not able to discuss these matters in a face-to-face conversation with your loved ones, this is a useful alternative.
- Power of Attorney. Planning for incapacity is an important part of estate planning. If you become incapacitated, you’ll need to have already given someone the power to manage your financial affairs. If you do not have a power of attorney, your family will need to turn to the court system, which will create delays and added stress. You’ll also want to have a healthcare power of attorney in place. Most people assume their spouses will immediately take on this role, but not everyone is capable of making the hard decisions, especially during an emergency situation.
- Legal Advice. Estate planning laws are governed by your state of residence. Your best option is to make an appointment with a local estate planning attorney to learn whether there are any other documents and plans you need to put into place. Some law firms provide a means of documenting assets to ensure that, at the time of death, your family is not embarking on a scavenger hunt to identify assets. In certain states, you can assign a funeral representative to make sure your funeral, burial or cremation and memorial service wishes are carried out. Your attorney will know what you and your family need.
Reference: Augusta Free Press (Nov. 27, 2018) “5 estate planning must-haves”
遺囑只是每個成年人在生時保護自己以及在他們去世之後保護他們的繼承人和家人的少數文件中的其中一份。根據 Augusta Free Press的一篇文章，以下是“5 estate planning must-haves,”：
2.受益人。在您眾多的賬戶 - 銀行賬戶，投資賬戶，退休賬戶，保險單 - 可能已經有一位指定的受益人，他將在您去世時繼承這些賬戶。但是，如果您最近沒有更新指定受益人，您可能會發現繼承您資產的人並不是您想的人。一旦發生狀況，就沒有合法的方式將資產轉讓給他人。確保您有後備受益人，如果主要受益人在您之前去世，或由於某種原因拒絕接受該資產，您將有機會選擇其他人來繼承資產。如果沒有後備受益人，法院可以作出決定。
參考: Augusta Free Press (Nov. 27, 2018) “5 estate planning must-haves”