A lot of people think an estate plan is only for the wealthy. But even if you're not worth millions, an estate plan is essential to help protect your heirs and ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. You may also want to consider how you would like to express your “values” to your loved ones with an ethical will.
You might also want to consider a revocable living trust if you're concerned about avoiding probate. It is a must for anyone who owns property in another state. It takes more time and money to set up a revocable trust, but it does keep your estate private and could make it easier to settle. However, if any of your assets are not owned by the trust nor beneficiary designations coordinated with the trust, your efforts may have been for naught.
Keeping your beneficiary designations current on any IRAs, 401(k)s or life insurance policies is essential. These assets pass directly to your designated heirs. The will does not control assets that have a named beneficiary.
Taking care of the financial side of an estate plan may be the easiest part of an estate plan. It's practical, and there are prescribed ways to handle distributing your wealth, no matter how large or small your estate. Preparing an ethical will takes a lot of soul searching. An ethical will is not binding on your heirs, but it does put in writing what you would like your wealth to accomplish.
Here are some questions to ask yourself before preparing an ethical will:
There is no pre-determined format for writing an ethical will, but there are many examples of ethical wills, as well as tools and tips for writing your own at websites such as celebrationsoflife.net and life-legacies.com.
Taking the time to get your estate planning documents completed is incredibly important. Dying without a will leaves a terrible void in any family unit. Taking the extra step and creating an ethical will has been described as "an estate-planning love letter to your family." Let your family know that you loved them by completing your estate plan. Contact your Western Fraternal Life agent for additional information about estate planning.
CFP®, FLMI, Annuity Product Manager
Call 877-935-2467 to speak with a Western Fraternal Life Representative.