This article appeared originally in the October 2009 Levitt Letter.
Below is an excerpt of a USA Today article offered in its entirety at levitt.com/news. It relates to the 12th installment of my semi-monthly Serpent series from page 7 of the December 2008 Levitt Letter. You can see the complete series at www.levitt.com/essays/#mark. Please see our booklet, A Guide To Your Christian Will, which is free with any purchase or contribution. —Mark
“The reason why people don’t do wills is probably just some sense of immortality,” says Sally Hurme, an attorney and senior project manager for AARP. In general, everyone needs a will.
If you don’t control what happens to your property, children, favorite piece of jewelry, and so forth, the State will. And that can lead to imperfect and sometimes costly decisions in probate court, which is where the distribution of a person’s estate occurs.
Parents of young children should have a will to establish a guardian. A trustee also should be named to manage money or any property left for young children. If you have personal items and mementos—such as jewelry, china, or art—that you want to bequeath to a close friend, certain relatives, or charity, it will happen only if specified in a will or trust.
If your estate is large or complicated, you may also want to set up a living trust. A living trust will help your heirs avoid probate, the complex and sometimes costly process by which a state court distributes your assets. Not everyone needs a trust.
A will reduces the chance that disputes over your estate end up in a bitter court battle. It must be properly signed and witnessed. One suggestion is to keep it at home in a fireproof box with other important papers. If you change it, you should destroy any old editions. All beneficiaries’ names should be listed so it is clear, for example, whether adopted or stepchildren should be included.
Relatives and friends are not necessarily the best trustees or executors. The right executor is someone who can be trusted, who can work well with others, who is intelligent, and who is not afraid to ask for—or hire—help.
An attorney specializing in estate planning can be helpful, but is not always necessary. Several companies offer software and online programs for do-it-yourself wills. Among the programs are Nolo’s Quicken WillMaker Plus and Kiplinger’s WILLPower. If you do decide to pay for a lawyer to write your will, you should educate yourself in advance so you can converse efficiently.
Would you like to receive contact information for Christian attorneys in your area? If so, write to Mark at our P.O. Box. May God guide you as you plan your final good deed before meeting Him.