Where There's a Will, There's a Way
September 6, 2022
The events of the past two years have increased Americans’ awareness of the need to have a will. Surprisingly, though, a recent survey finds that only about 33 percent of Americans have established estate plans that direct how they would like their money and estates to be handled after their deaths.
So, what happens if you don't have a will when you die? Every state has their own established intestate process that determines how a person’s assets will be distributed. When someone dies without a will, their assets are frozen until the state court system combs through every detail of the estate. This process can be time-consuming and emotionally exhausting for the surviving family members.
Here’s a Tip: Four Important Things That a Will Can Do for You
Clearly state who gets your assets when you die. The most essential reason to make a will is to designate who will get your property when you die. Without a will (or other plan, like a living trust), your state laws determine how your property will be distributed—usually to your closest relatives, like your spouse, children or parents.
Name an executor for your estate. You can use your will to name an executor (or personal representative, in some states) to handle the task of making sure that your estate plans are carried out according to your wishes. Without a will, a court will appoint someone to do this job.
Name a guardian to take care of your children. Your will is the only place to nominate a guardian to care for your minor children, and a property manager to take care of your children's property. When you bequeath property to minor children through a will or trust, you can also leave instructions about how that property should be managed. If you die without a will, a court will decide who should care for your kids and assign the rights to manage the assets you leave them.
Create a personal legacy with charitable giving. Without a will, you’ll miss the opportunity to continue to make a difference – even after your lifetime - for the charitable organizations, like Drexel University and Drexel University College of Medicine, that are important to you. Additionally, including charitable gifts in your estate plans can also minimize the impact of taxes and other costs to your estate upon your death. The right planned gift can be used strategically to maximize your assets’ potential benefit – both for your loved ones and for the causes that mean the most to you.
Other important elements to consider:
- Make a living will, which will clearly explain your wishes for care should you become so ill that you can't act on your own behalf.
- Appoint a "digital executor," who will have passwords to access your computer, email and social media accounts. In this Internet age, it's important to think about who gets the passwords, and to leave directions on how those accounts are to be handled when you’re gone.
- Consider detailing plans for your funeral and final resting place, which will make things easier for your family when you're gone. Sometimes the decision between burial or cremation – or making choices about details for a service – can create a tremendous amount of stress for survivors.
For help in discovering the right planned giving option for your unique goals and interests, contact David Toll, JD, senior associate vice president, Drexel University Office of Gift Planning at 215.895.1882 or firstname.lastname@example.org.