PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A recent survey found that roughly 40 percent of baby boomers have yet to make a will.
That number jumps to 71 percent for all Americans over the age of 34.
If you’re one of them, Angie’s List has some expert advice to make the process a little easier.
Susan Elser plans finances for people while they live. She tries to do the same for when they die.
If you die without a will, your assets go to your spouse if you have established joint ownership. Any asset not jointly owned, like a car or a piece of jewelry, could cause lengthy and stressful legal battles.
“The key things are to decide who you would want to have the assets that you have, especially if you’re in a second marriage and you’re trying to provide for both your spouse as well as children from a previous marriage,” Elser said.
She says many people don’t even think about a will until they become parents.
“While no one looks forward to planning their estate or funeral, it’s something we should all do because it can be considered a gift to your family because you’re reducing stress that would be on them at that time,” said Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks.
An estate-planning attorney can offer advice and file the necessary paperwork to make sure your resources go where you want them. Elser strongly recommends that parents establish a trust that allocates inheritance at certain ages so kids don’t get too much too soon.
“Trusts are great for people that have young children, people that have a lot of wealth and they’re worried about ruining their children’s work ethic, people that have a disabled child,” Elser said.
She says this is also the time to create a health care directive should a medical crisis leave you unable to communicate.
“Would you want to be artificially sustained through nutrition and a respirator?” Elser said. “It’s very important to make that decision yourself so you’re not leaving that burden to a family member to make.”
“You don’t need to be wealthy to need a will,” Hicks said. “Everyone should consider one because it will help just make distribution of your things, even the sentimental items, easier and alleviate stress and fighting in your family.”
Angie says to expect to pay at least $1,500 for even the most basic estate-planning services, but make sure to double-check your life insurance and retirement account beneficiaries. Those will supersede whatever is written in your will.