The benefits of preparing a will

Having a will is important for all New Jersey adults regardless of whether they have many assets or few. Without a will, the state decides how to distribute the individual's possessions after their death. With a will, a person appoints an executor to administer the estate as well as beneficiaries who will receive the assets. A will may be as simple as a typed document signed by two witnesses, or it might be a complex document prepared with the assistance of attorneys and financial planners.

Beneficiaries can be anyone whom an individual wishes to leave assets to and should be named specifically as opposed to just by relationship. Individuals should also consider other accounts they may have, such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts, that might need beneficiaries named as well.

The executor inventories and distributes assets and pays debts and taxes. An individual who is preparing a will may want to ask the person they have chosen if they wish to be the executor. An individual might also want to consider appointing a second executor or even writing an entirely different will dealing with their online life. This social media executor would have authority to deal with an individual's email and online profiles. An estate plan should be updated periodically to reflect changes such as marriages, births, deaths and an individual's financial status.

A lawyer may be helpful in preparing an estate plan because they may be able to suggest other useful tools such as trusts or a living will. Individuals might want more control over how they distribute assets, which a trust can provide, or they may want a health care proxy and power of attorney to ensure that they are taken care of in case they become incapacitated.

Source: USA.gov, "Writing a Will," Author, April 21, 2015

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