The Basics of Building A Castle is Having Solid Foundations
By Rebecca Ellis and Pascal Crepin
TUE, AUGUST 15 2017-theG&BJournal-Creating a plan for the future of your assets is one of the most critical things you can do for your loved ones. Putting your wishes on paper helps your heirs avoid unnecessary hassles, and you gain the peace of mind of knowing that a life’s worth of possessions will end up in the right hands. There are various options that can be selected and getting the foundations right is crucial.
What is a will?
A will is simply a legal document in which you, the testator, declare who will deal with and inherit your estate after you die. Your estate can consist of big, important assets such as holiday home and it can also include also small items that might hold sentimental value such as photographs. The person named in the will to manage your estate is called the executor because he or she executes your stated wishes.
A will can also serve to declare who you wish to become the guardian for any minor children or dependents, and who you want to receive specific items that you own — Aunt Sally gets the silver, Cousin Billy the bone china, and so on. Someone designated to receive any of your property is called a “beneficiary.”
Some types of property, including certain insurance policies and retirement accounts, may be held on trust and so not covered by your will. You should have listed beneficiaries when you took out the policies or opened the accounts. Check if you can’t remember, and make sure you keep beneficiaries up to date since what you have on file when you die should dictate who receives those assets.
What happens if I die without a will?
If you die without a valid will, you’ll become what’s called intestate. That usually means your estate will be settled based on the laws of your state that outline who inherits what. Probate is the legal process of transferring the property of a deceased person to the rightful heirs.
Since no executor was named, a judge appoints an administrator to serve in that capacity. An administrator also will be named if a will is deemed to be invalid. All wills must meet certain standards such as being witnessed to be legally valid. Again, requirements vary from state to state.
An administrator will most likely be a stranger to you and your family, and he or she will be bound by the letter of the probate laws of your state. As such, an administrator may make decisions that wouldn’t necessarily agree with your wishes or those of your heirs.
Do I need a legal professional to prepare my will?
No, you aren’t required to hire a lawyer to prepare your will, but an experienced lawyer can provide useful advice on estate-planning strategies which we will go into later in our updates and can also guide you through increasingly complex tax laws relevant to your estate.
Do-it-yourself will kits are widely available. Conduct an Internet search for “online wills” or “estate planning software” to find options, or check bookstores and libraries for will-writing guides.
Ending with the start in mind
Identify the things that are most important to you: Before you start to build your legacy, spend some time in reflection so that you are moving in the direction right for you. As respected author James Cabell once said, “While it is well enough to leave footprints on the sands of time, it is even more important to make sure that they point in a commendable direction.” Determine your direction. What do you care the most about? What are your strongest beliefs and convictions? You may want to make a list of the values that mean the most to you.
Consider the avenues for communicating these values: Once you have these values laid out, you can begin thinking about how you want to achieve them and communicate them to others. Now’s the time to start planning some personal projects. You may want to write a book about something that is important to you or a letter that contains life lessons that you have discovered. You may decide to get active in community service or donate to charities that you find meaningful. Invest time or money in causes that you really want to support.
By taking action now, you are on the road in making a difference for your loved ones and communities who are important to you.
What is most important to you?
Spent time reflecting about your core values
Complete an audit of your assets sentimental and value based
Consult a legal advisor or download template will.
Make sure to update as and when life events happen
Ellis and Crepin are both of POMONA WEALTH, A Personal investment advisor, based in Zurich |REBECCA.ELLIS@POMOMAWEALTH.COM|PASCAL.CREPIN@POMONAWEALTH.COM