An article on Forbes' website under their Personal Finance section, stated that approximately 51% of Americans, ages 55-64, do not have a will, or legal document, stating their last wishes at the time of their death. This can be an issue for families when it comes to separating a loved one's estate, and can cause major upheaval in a family. If no will is in place, a person's estate goes into probate which can take up more time than necessary.
Why don't more American's have wills? Forbes contributor Richard Eisenberg wrote that approximately 57% stated they "just hadn't gotten around to it," where 17% didn't think they needed one. The author stated that it does not matter who you are, what your assets are, everyone should have a will, or some sort of written document stating your last wishes and what you would like to do with your belongings, property, and money. There are many resources online that can help you get started for very little money, as an estate attorney can be out of price range for some, motivating them not to draft the legal document.
With that said, once the will is drafted and in place, keep it in a safe spot that you will remember the location. Anytime your personal situation changes, update your will to reflect those changes. Aging Care's website gave five reasons to review your will: relationships change, assets change, locations change, tax laws change, and regular check-ups that you can do yourself without the help of an attorney.
A checklist to keep handy while doing a check-up consists of:
- Birth or adoption of a child/grandchild
- Death of someone named in your will
- Children have reached the age of eighteen
- A change in the circumstances of your executor, guardians, trustees, etc.
- You would like to provide for a charitable or other organization
- An increase or decrease in the value of your estate
- You started a business
- A change in tax laws
- You are approaching the age at which you are required to begin taking distributions from your IRA, 401(k) or other qualified plan
- You moved out of state
- It has been three years or more since you have reviewed your will
If a change needs to be made, contact a local attorney that is able to do so to make a new, updated will. Remember, keep all of your estate information and forms/documents organized in one location for easier access for you or family members.