It has been said that a person will work more than 40 years to accumulate assets and will spend 20 years conserving what has been accumulated but will not take two hours to plan carefully for its distribution. Creating a will is a secure way to plan for your financial future and care for the people and causes you love most.
Every adult should have a will. A will is a statement to the public regarding the disposition of your property at death. Creating your will is an essential step of financial proactivity—no matter your age, wealth or status. When it comes to your financial security, there are advantages to being prepared.
Though each person’s situation is different, here are 8 reasons why you need a will:
Because a properly prepared will is legally-binding, it guarantees that your estate will be handled according to your wishes. If you die intestate (without a will), there is no way to ensure that your intentions will be honored. Your will can outline the distribution of a variety of assets, including but not limited to real estate, cash and savings, intangible personal property (such as stocks and bonds) and valuable objects (like artwork, jewelry, collections, etc.).
An executor (or executrix) is the individual designated in your will to manage the affairs of your estate, thereby ensuring your wishes are met. Executors ensure all of your affairs are in order, including paying outstanding bills, canceling your credit cards, and notifying your bank and other business establishments about your passing. Without a will, you may not be able to legally determine who will serve this important role.
You are the person who knows your children best, and you know what will be best for them if you pass away when they are still minors. Without a will, the State will determine a family member or other appointed guardian to care for any children under the age of 18. By choosing a guardian for your children in your will, you ensure they would be looked after by someone you love and trust.
A properly prepared estate plan will help minimize estate and generation-skipping tax, as well as the income tax your heirs will pay on inherited assets. For example, if you are planning a gift to charity, taking that gift from a retirement plan and passing other assets to heirs would save them the income tax they would pay from the inherited retirement plan.
The probate process is the legal manner through which property is transferred after an individual’s death. Having a will decreases the length of the process by informing the court how you would like your estate to be divided. If you die without a will, the court will decide how to divide your estate without your input, often causing long delays in the distribution of the assets.
Leaving a bequest to a charity, like the Potsdam College Foundation at SUNY Potsdam, ensures that your legacy continues and that the causes important to you are supported. A charitable bequest may also reduce your state and federal estate taxes, thereby increasing the value of your estate for your heirs and beneficiaries. For more information about a charitable bequest to support SUNY Potsdam students, visit potsdam.edu/bequest.
The loss of a loved one is a difficult grieving process that takes an emotional, mental and physical toll on the survivors. You can reduce the stress on your family and the people closest to you in their time of mourning by clearly articulating your wishes in a will.
Major life changes (such as births, change of family status, and retirement) can create the need to update your will. Fortunately, you can modify your will at any point throughout your life. This also means that there is no harm in creating a will at a young age, as it can always be altered to better fit your circumstances in the future.
We understand that estate planning can seem overwhelming at the beginning of the process, but there are many resources available to assist you. The Raymond Legacy Society created its Estate Planning Guide to help you collect and organize the information you will need before meeting with a financial advisor to create or update your estate plan.
To request your copy of the Estate Planning Guide or ask questions about wills and/or charitable bequests, contact Jason Ladouceur ’94, Senior Director of College Advancement, at 315-267-2123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Raymond Legacy Society celebrates those who have made an estate gift arrangement to support the College, as well as those who have established a permanent endowed fund. The Society also provides educational material on giving to assist alumni and friends in achieving their philanthropic goals. For more information, visit potsdam.edu/legacy.