Estate Planning – Your Will

What Your Will Can Do

Why do you need a will? Because it allows you to:

  • Direct the division of your property the way you choose—not the way the state decides.
  • Make special financial arrangements for your family members who are minors, disabled or unfamiliar with money management.
  • Name a guardian for your minor children.
  • Select an executor (personal representative) who is well-qualified to settle your estate promptly and economically, with careful attention to your wishes.
  • Provide vital support for your favorite charitable institutions. Learn more about making a gift to us through your will.
  • Devise an estate plan, with the help of a qualified attorney and other advisors, to minimize the taxes on your estate.*

You Need a Will

Everyone needs a will, no matter if he or she is young or old, sick or healthy, single or married.

If you leave this world without a will, your assets will be distributed according to state law and your wishes will not be fulfilled. Likewise, having an outdated will also means that your current intentions will not be carried out. So when change occurs in your life, remember to update your will.

4 Steps to Your First Will

1. Begin With the Basics

Start by getting organized: outline your objectives, determine the value of your property, inventory your major assets, estimate outstanding debts, and prepare a list of family members and other beneficiaries to whom you want to pass assets. You’ll also want to ask yourself these two questions:

  • How do I want to divide my assets among my family members, other loved ones and favorite causes?
  • Do I need to make special provisions for any of my heirs?

2. Choose Guardians

If you have minor children or an adult child, a parent or a spouse with special needs who is your dependent, you must think about who will care for them when you’re gone. Talk to your proposed guardian ahead of time about what you are asking, and understand that if you don’t name a guardian, the courts may end up doing it for you.

3. Choose an Executor

Your executor undertakes many important responsibilities, including:

  • Notifying all interested parties and agencies of your death.
  • Paying creditors and outstanding taxes.
  • Distributing your assets according to your will.

If you don’t have a will, or if your will doesn’t name an executor, the courts will appoint one.

4. Meet With an Estate Planning Attorney

To avoid trouble for your heirs, seek the counsel of an estate planning attorney to help record your wishes in a legally sound will.

At What Cost?

When drafting your will, you may spend a few hundred dollars or several times that amount depending on where you live. Whatever the going rate in your area, resist the “deal.” Instead, select a qualified estate planning attorney who can help you save your estate money and eliminate heartache in the long run.

Share the sample bequest language for the El Dorado Community Foundation with your estate planning attorney:

“I, [name], of [city, state ZIP], give, devise and bequeath to the El Dorado Community Foundation [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose.”

Case Study

The following is an illustration of how this type of document works.

Jane and Jerry completed their first wills many years ago when their two children were young. Now empty nesters, Jane and Jerry are happily looking forward to retirement. Part of their plan for retirement was meeting with their attorney to update their estate plans.

Recently, on the drive home from work, Jane was involved in a serious car accident that put her in the hospital for more than a week. The children, now old enough to speak frankly with their parents, asked their dad if he and their mom had up-to-date wills. Jerry was able to share with them that he and Jane had recently updated their entire estate plan, including their wills. They also had the proper paperwork in place if Jerry needed to make medical decisions on behalf of Jane while she was in the hospital.

Knowing that their parents had an updated estate plan gave the children peace of mind and allowed all of them to focus their energies on helping Jane recover.

Talk It Out

Discussing financial information with your family may be difficult, but sharing your plans now avoids misunderstandings later.

When and How to Update Your Will

Here are some circumstances that make it vital to update your will:

  • You want to name a different executor, trustee or guardian.
  • Your assets have significantly increased or decreased in value.
  • You’ve moved to another state.
  • Your situation or a beneficiary’s situation has changed. Has your family changed because of marriage, divorce, birth, adoption or death?
  • You want to include a gift to us in your will. Consider leaving us a percentage of your estate or the balance remaining after bequests are distributed to your loved ones.
  • The estate tax laws have changed. Check with your estate planning attorney to make sure your estate plan is up-to-date with the substantial federal estate tax law changes.

Double Check

When changes occur in your life, remember to update your estate plans for assets not controlled by your will. For example, you may need to change beneficiary designations on your retirement plan assets or life insurance policies.

How to Update Your Will

  • Step 1: Get a copy of your current will.
  • Step 2: Mark the areas you’d like to change.
  • Step 3: Meet with your estate planning attorney to draft and prepare your new document.
  • Step 4: Consider discussing changes with us if they may affect the El Dorado Community Foundation.

Share the sample bequest language for the El Dorado Community Foundation with your estate planning attorney:

“I, [name], of [city, state ZIP], give, devise and bequeath to the El Dorado Community Foundation [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose.”

What Your Will Can’t Do

Your Will Does Not Control These Assets

  • IRAs, 401(k)s and other retirement plan assets. With each account, you will need to name a beneficiary to receive the benefits of your plan.
  • Life insurance policies. You will need to name the beneficiaries of your life insurance policies to receive the death benefits after your lifetime.
  • Any assets you own jointly with rights of survivorship. If you are the first of the two joint owners to die, your part will automatically pass to the surviving joint owner. Note, however, that your share of assets held as tenants in common will flow through your will to your beneficiaries.

It Doesn’t Have to Be All or Nothing

You can name us as a contingent beneficiary of your retirement plan assets or life insurance policies. That way we benefit only if your primary beneficiary is no longer living.

How to Find an Estate Planning Attorney

An Easy 3-Step Approach

1. Collect Names

Here are some common resources to help you identify estate planning attorneys in your area:

  • References from friends, relatives and co-workers
  • The American Bar Association’s Internet lawyer referral service, (Search for attorneys in your area and research firms or individual attorneys to identify which ones specialize in trusts and estates or wills and probate.)
  • Recommendations from charities you trust, especially if you’re considering making a gift to charity through your will or trust
  • Referrals from a local bar association or estate planning council

Quick Tip

No one can help you minimize taxes and protect your assets like a qualified estate planning attorney can.

2. Acquire Information

Once you’ve compiled a list of possible contenders, research them to determine the following information:

  • Experience and references
  • How fees are charged, along with an estimate of costs
  • Professional accomplishments
  • The number of principals working in the office
  • Office hours
  • Areas of specialty
  • Percentage of work devoted to estate planning
  • Alliances with professionals in related fields that may be of help

3. Make Your Choice

It’s important to choose someone you trust and respect.

We would be happy to further help you with a referral for estate planning attorneys who work well with your unique situation.