At HBKS Wealth Advisors, we begin every new client relationship by meeting with the client to develop a financial plan; it’s your roadmap to achieving your financial goals. I end each financial planning process by asking the client about their will: Do you have one? Is it up to date? Can you provide a copy we can put on file to ensure it is available when needed?
Not having a will can leave your family in dire straits. Case in point: A man who’d never married died with $800,000 in cash and liquid assets, a building worth $250,000, and no will. The court assigned his nephew as executor of his estate. Between visits to probate courts, getting the building up to code and selling it, and fighting among the man’s nieces and nephews, it was six years before the final dollar was distributed. Not only was the estate devalued by the costs of courts and lawyers, but the bulk of what remained went to the man’s estranged sister whom he hadn’t talked with for decades.
Meanwhile, his nephew, the appointed executor, had a will that included assignments of all his assets to named beneficiaries. His estate was settled and assets distributed as he intended within six months of his death without involving a probate court.
The simplest of wills can save those you leave behind a costly, drawn-out settlement process as well as avoid family disagreements that often turn ugly and can destroy relationships. Moreover, it is how you ensure your property and other assets will be distributed the way you want them—to family, to charities, to establish a lasting legacy—and avoid the costly and emotionally draining process of probate.
Every adult out on their own and compiling assets should have a will, as well as a healthcare directive and assignment of power of attorney in case they are incapacitated to the point they are unable to act on their own behalf. And they should update their will as their lives change, like getting married or divorced; to reflect growth in investment accounts; to address significant assets, like a vacation home, rental property, or a fully or partially owned business. Young parents’ wills should include an appointed guardian for their minor children to avoid one being assigned by the courts should that become necessary.
A well-designed will can save your heirs from having to pay unnecessary taxes. We work with our clients’ attorneys and our CPA partners to address federal and state estate tax issues and opportunities to ensure assets are passed along to their beneficiaries in the most tax-efficient manner.
People often put off discussing their wills because they find it uncomfortable. But if you don’t make decisions now, it can be a great deal more uncomfortable for your heirs when the courts are making those decisions for you.
The information included in this document is for general, informational purposes only. It does not contain any investment advice and does not address any individual facts and circumstances. As such, it cannot be relied on as providing any investment advice. If you would like investment advice regarding your specific facts and circumstances, please contact a qualified financial advisor.
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