Seniors: Wills and Estate Planning

By: Jody Smith

Writing a will is a good idea. It is one of a small number of important documents that together represent your estate plan. You need a will because that's where you identify who you want to inherit your assets. Some people don't get around to writing their wills because they think that their possessions and finances are too small and simple to warrant the process. Even if your assets are small and simple, and even if your assets are in a joint tenancy or a living trust, you still need a will. Your will protects the people in your life, and it protects your assets.

Because if you don't set it down legally, then legally your estate will be at the mercy of the government because the government will take over where you left off. Unless you say otherwise, generally, one to two thirds of the estate will be given to the spouse. You must specifically stipulate it in your will if you want your spouse to get a different amount, depending on your state laws. What remains is usually divided among the children.

If you've put off making a will with the fear that sometime afterward you might regret some of what you have in there, or want to make some changes, delay no longer. You can make any changes, any time you want. In fact there are times in the span of life when a fresh look at your will is indicated. If you move from one state to another be aware that there are differences in some laws from state to state so you may need to make revisions accordingly.

Other times to take another look at the contents of your will are after major life changes, like deaths, separations, divorces, and the next generation in the form of your children, and the one after that as your grandchildren ... and possibly the one after that. If you have remarried and have stepchildren now, you need to decide what you might want to leave them, if anything. You can make these designations through the use of trusts.

Think about who you would like to inherit your assets, and how much. Think about who should be executor, and administer the estate as well as go through probate. Once you have determined what you want, it's time to contact a lawyer.

You may feel uneasy thinking about a time when you will no longer be here, and will no longer be needing your possessions. But best to set your queasiness aside and get it in writing because otherwise when the time comes, the government will get its hands all over your estate and divide it for you. Final decisions in that case will be made according to state law.

Jody Smith is a freelance writer for EmpowHER.com.

Sources:

Personal Finance For Seniors For Dummies

http://books.google.ca

Senior Finance: When Should You Change Your Will?

http://www.seniorcitizenjournal.com/senior-finances-articles/senior-finance-when-should-you-change-your-will/

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