Do I Need an Estate Plan and Will?
You may think you don’t have enough money or property to have an estate plan or a will. But you should carefully consider drawing up one or both of these documents if you have property and/or belongings your heirs will inherit.
Photo by CanStock/zimmytws
Death isn’t something we like to think about. I personally would rather concentrate on living, but I learned something recently. Almost everyone needs an estate plan and a will.
Spending the time and effort it takes to put your wishes in writing and having it legally declared will save your heirs money, time, and heartache.
You may think you don’t have enough money or property to have an estate plan or a will.
But you should carefully consider drawing up one or both of these documents if you have property and/or belongings your heirs will inherit. These documents ensure your wishes for your property will be carried out after your death.
Estate plans and wills can relieve your heirs of death and/or estate taxes in addition to costly legal processes and paperwork associated with settling an estate. These documents also will help carry out your wishes for your property upon your death. In other words, who gets what, or who doesn’t get what.
Without an estate plan and/or will, your property will be divided according to the state laws of Mississippi. This division may not be what you expect. You can read about how the state divides property among survivors in Extension Publication 1739, “Planning Your Estate Part 2: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way.”
The basic steps for creating an estate plan include:
- Begin a conversation about your estate and your wishes with your family.
- Consult with professional advisors, including attorneys, financial planners, accountants, real estate agents, life insurance agents, trust officers, and others as needed for your individual situation.
- Review your current financial situation and assets.
- Identify what you want your estate plan to do. For example, you may want to provide security for a surviving spouse or transfer property to specific individuals.
- Consider alternatives for accomplishing who gets your property and how and when this should happen. One option is a trust. This legal contract allows a person of your choosing to manage property or other assets for the benefit of a person or group of people you designate.
- Review and modify your plan periodically. Experts recommend reviewing your plan at least once a year and when any changes to your property or family occur, such as buying or selling property or when there is a death, birth, divorce, or marriage.
The steps you use for creating an estate plan can also help you make a will. If you want to control the division of your property after your death, a will can help you do this.
Some important considerations to note about wills:
- It is best to seek professional, legal counsel when making a will.
- Mississippi state laws set some restrictions on property transfer.
- Individuals, even married couples, should have their own will.
- Divorce, separation, or annulment do not invalidate a will.
- Life insurance is not a substitute for a will.
- You must name an executor – a person you trust to execute the settlement of your estate.
Get in-depth information about putting together an estate plan in Extension Publication 1742, “Planning Your Estate Part 1: Where to Begin.”
Extension Publication 1739, “Planning Your Estate Part 2: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way” can help you understand what a will is and if you need one.
Advance health care directives, also called living wills, can be executed at the same time as estate plans and wills. It is an important document to communicate your wishes about health care if you become ill and unable to communicate.
Learn more about this document and why you need it in Extension publication 2220, “Declaring Your Wishes Through an Advanced Health-Care Directive – A Guide for Mississippi Families.”
Many families will find these conversations difficult. Check out the Conversation Project, a guide by the Institute of Healthcare Improvement, to help families talk about health care decisions through the end of life.
Get more information about how to take care of putting end-of-life decisions in a legal document on the Extension website.
Hopefully, you won’t need these documents any time soon, but you can rest easier knowing your family won’t have to guess what you want.
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