The recent pandemic prompted many younger Americans to plan by drafting a will. Interestingly, it didn’t have the same effect on older citizens.
Results from a 2021 survey found that people 18-34 years old are 16 percent more likely to have a will today than are those 35-54 years old. Despite the focus on serious health issues in the news in 2020, more than two-thirds of respondents still don’t have key estate planning documents in place.
Even more alarming is a downward trend among older adults. The survey discovered that, among those over 54 years of age, the percentage that have estate plans in place has shrunk from 60 percent in 2019 to 44 percent in 2021.
Admittedly, it’s not a topic most of us want to spend time on. Nevertheless, if you have any desire to dictate your wishes after you pass, you should seriously consider drafting a will. And, to ensure the will is valid and conforms with state law, you should consider hiring an estate planning attorney.
Once you’ve made the decision to create a will, what information should be included?
General Information About You. The will should include your full name, address, the date and your signature. Even if this is your first will, it should state that it is your “last” will and that it replaces any previous wills that you have made.
Name of Your Executor. This is the person you want to “execute” or carry out your wishes regarding the distribution of all your assets.
Outline the Executor’s Powers. The will should state very clearly how much authority you want to give your executor. Typically, ones grant the executor authority to manage their estate and pay their debts and final costs (like mortgage payments, loan payments, funeral expenses and income taxes).
Distribution of Assets. Do you want your daughter to receive your piano and your son to receive your golf clubs? What about your jewelry, property, investments, car and furniture? The will should also cover distribution of your digital assets (those created, transmitted or stored online in private accounts or in other intangible forms).
Guardian for your Children. Do you have minor children at home? What happens if an accident takes the lives of you and your spouse? For parents of young children, this may be the most important provision in the will. Your decision on guardianship is not legally binding but is often closely adhered to by the courts.