In the previous newsletter (August 2013) we asked 6 Key Questions about Your Last Will and Testament.  Actually, we asked seven questions, the last one being whether you had remembered a charity in general, the Janaka Foundation in particular, with a charitable bequest.

In this newsletter we are going to answer the question, Why Do You Need a Valid and Up-to-Date Will.  That’s two issues of this newsletter in a row about Wills.  Why?  Because it can’t be emphasized too often how important a Will really is for your peace of mind, for your family and for those charities which reflect your lifetime interests.  (We hope Ananda is one of them).

Let’s assume that you love your family and want to provide for them, that you want to be sure the wealth you have spent your lifetime accumulating will be used wisely and not wasted.

But if you are like seven out of ten people nation-wide, you haven’t taken the single most important step in meeting these objectives.  As a result, you will die without leaving a valid Last Will and Testament.

Of course, not to worry, right?  The state in which you live will make sure your estate will be distributed as they think you would want it to be: even though this may not be as you really intended it!

Of course, they can’t look into your mind or into your heart.  The impersonal formula for intestacy distribution (when you don’t have a will) does not take into consideration your personal feelings and lifetime interests.

Your property, regardless of any promises you may have made, will be distributed solely on the basis of blood relationships, i.e., spouse, children, parents, brothers and sisters.  And the state will assume that you don’t have a charitable bone in your body.

Four Reasons to have a Will
In most situations people will want their spouses to receive everything so that the surviving spouse can continue the lifestyle which they both enjoyed.  The last-to-die of this married couple will then leave the joint accumulated estate to their children. But, without a Will? ….

1. State laws may provide that only part of the estate’s assets will go to the spouse and the rest to the children.  If the children are minors, the state through its appointed guardians will generally control their assets until they are of legal age.  An up-to-date will would put you in charge of providing security for your spouse.

2. Think about what might happen if both parents died in an accident. Absent a Will, the children by law would inherit their estate but the guardian appointed by the court would manage the income supporting the minor children.  The court is not compelled to consult with other family members nor seek their approval in its choice of guardianship.

3. A valid Will means that treasured personal property will pass to your heirs who would treat them as the precious heirlooms that they are.  Family dissention and heartache are often the result of family members not being able to amicably decide who gets what from the estate.  Listing on a signed sheet – and this list of personal property should be mentioned in the will – who are the heirs of certain items will prevent this dispute.

4. State intestacy laws do not provide for charitable bequests.  If you do not have a valid Will, your financial support of these lifetime interests ends when you die.  There will be no legacy of love and caring.

                                   You and you alone can revoke
                             the state’s “Will” by taking the time
                                to have your own Will prepared.

When is a Good Time?  Now!
There will never be a better time than NOW to make a will. Waiting for a better time to come along “someday,” you may forfeit control of how your property will be divided and who will administer your estate.

There is no time like the present.  If you are old enough to vote, if you are old enough to own property, if you are old enough to take on responsibility for others, then you’re old enough to have a Will.  By making a Will now, you protect your beneficiaries and your estate against the risk of something happening to you before “someday” arrives.

A good first Will is never a wasted effort.  By taking the time to write a legal Will, you are creating a firm foundation of family fiscal planning.  Any later Wills you make should be the better for it.

When should you review your Will?
Circumstances surrounding your life are constantly changing whether you are aware of them or not. You should do a thorough review of your Will every 7 to 10 years.

Use the following check-list to consider whether or not you should take the time to review your Will.

  • Marriage
  • Birth or Adoption
  • Re-marriage, Widowhood or Divorce
  • Death of a Spouse
  • Guardianship
  • Children’s Education
  • Children Growing Up
  • Purchase of Real Estate
  • Buying or Selling a Business
  • Changes in Property Value
  • Moving to Another State
  • Retirement
  • Tax Law Changes

Conclusion: We hope these insights into the need for a valid and up-to-date Will will be worthwhile for you even if you conclude “I’m all set for now.”  We regard you as our friends, members of our Ananda family.  We wish for you the very best in life, and that includes sharing with you worthwhile counsel and sound advice.

One last thing:  2013 IRA Contributions to Charities
2013 may be the last year for you to make contributions to charities directly from your IRA and not have them count as reportable income. If you are 70 1/2, such distributions count toward the sum you are required to withdraw as your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD).  Check with your financial advisor or manager for further details.