As always, this time of year prompts thoughts about how to improve your situation for the future. When putting together your list of resolutions for the coming year, though, chances are that you haven’t thought much about estate planning.
The most common New Year’s resolutions focus around things like saving more, spending less, and paying down debt. However, there’s more to getting financially organized than those three goals. One of the best things you can do is to create a will.
Are You One of Those without a Will?
According to the recent “State of Wills” survey released by legal web site Nolo, nearly half of those surveyed don’t have wills. On top of that, women are lagging behind when it comes to will creation. The Nolo survey indicates that about two-thirds of men have wills, while only slightly more than one-third of female respondents have wills.
Your will can be one of the ways that you smoothly transfer assets to your heirs. The creation of a will can let others know what your intentions are, and legally ensure that your wishes are carried out. While a will won’t solve all your estate planning issues, it’s a good start.
Updating Your Will
Don’t forget to update your will. Even if you have already made a will, make it a point to resolve to update your will in the coming year, particularly if you have had a major life event. The Nolo survey points out that about one in five respondents have had a major life event since the last update of a will. Major life events that might influence your will include:
- Death of a loved one
- Birth of a child (learn more about considerations for your children’s guardians).
These are events that change who your heirs might be, as well as how you might want to dispose of your estate. (On a related note, check your beneficiary information after a major life event. Changing your will won’t change your retirement account or life insurance beneficiary information. Do you want your ex getting your life insurance payout if you die?)
When you already have a will, it makes sense to reflect on it each year. Read through it and make sure that it still expresses your preferences, and then make any necessary changes.
How to Create a Will
There are several templates that you can use to create a will online, or you can use a lawyer. For most people, a basic template is enough to create a will. However, as your needs become more complicated, it can work to get help. There are paid options for creating a will, with software that can help you tailor your will to your situation. Or, you can spend about $1,400 (according to Nolo) to have a lawyer help you create your will.
If you begin writing your will and you realize that you have an even more complex situation that involves a business, several investments, or other assets, you might want to consider other estate planning resources and tools, such as trusts. You might need additional help figuring out how to structure these types of accounts.
In the end, it’s about being prepared. The new year is a great time to consider your situation, and begin your estate planning efforts. If you don’t have a will, that’s the best place to begin.