August is a bittersweet month; summer evenings are growing cooler, and a hint of autumn is in the air as families and friends enjoy a few last gatherings on the deck or patio before kids return to school and life speeds up again. There is much organizing to do if you have children returning to the classroom, and for older adults, the changing of the season may signal an opportunity to tidy up any paperwork that needs attention. August is National Make-A-Will Month, and although estate planning protects our loved ones and our own peace of mind – many adults fail to put a legal will in place.
According to Compassion & Choices, nearly 67 percent of American adults have not created a legal will. A will not only divides up property, funds, and belongings but can also help empower adults to make their choices about end-of-life known to their loved ones. Making decisions about healthcare and final wishes in a legal will helps guide decision-making during a health emergency.
Failing to draft a will can force families to make difficult end-of-life decisions during an already emotionally difficult time. Having a legal will can also prevent complicated estate matters that involve government, or that could lead to family strife and lengthy settlement battles. Following any significant change in circumstances such as a divorce, beneficiary designations for life insurance, retirement accounts and investments should be also updated.
Even if you have a will already in place, it is wise to review it every few years if certain assets have been sold or new assets added. Reviewing your executors is also wise, as your wishes about who will be capable and willing to act on your behalf may have also changed over time. Going over the details of your will can also provide an opportunity to make funeral pre-arrangements, designate any charitable donations, and establish an advanced directive to guide end-of-life medical decisions.
Creating a legal will doesn’t have to be costly or greatly time-consuming, and it’s not only for people with great wealth. Individuals with larger estates, children with special needs, or complicated family issues may, however, want to seek personal legal advice. Learn more by visiting the FreeWill website. In Canada, the Globe and Mail has an article with some good guidance.