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Is your legacy ready?

Two out of three people die without a will — don’t leave your family unprepared

Many people believe that estate planning is only for the wealthy. But did you know that if you die intestate (without a will), your estate will be distributed according to the laws of your state? This can be a slow, expensive and sometimes inequitable process that could have been avoided by proper planning.

Before it’s too late, make sure you have these important documents ready and up-to-date.

Did You Know: More than half of all wills are outdated because of the implications of new laws. More than a third are outdated because of changes in personal possessions and family situations.

The Will

The simplest form of estate planning is the will. This legal document, when properly prepared, signed and witnessed, directs how you want your estate distributed and ensures that your wishes will be respected. The will is especially important if you have minor children as you will select any guardians for your children.

Keep in mind, accounts with beneficiary designations — including many life insurance policies and GuideStone retirement plans — are generally excluded from decisions made in wills.

Important step: Make sure your beneficiary designations are up-to-date.

Trusts

How does a trust differ from a will? Whereas a will expresses your wishes after your death, a trust can take effect before or after your death. It also allows you to control the distribution of your estate under either circumstance. Essentially, trusts place your assets in a fund that is managed by a trustee for your benefit or that of your beneficiaries. For example, you can utilize a trust created during your lifetime, a “living trust,” or you can create a trust as a provision of your will that receives and manages assets for your beneficiaries after your death. Many different options are available to you. In fact, some options allow you to remain as your own trustee until your death.

Living will

A health care directive, or living will, ensures your wishes are known in case you become incapacitated and are no longer able to make decisions for yourself. It directs family and medical specialists whether to keep you on artificial life support and appoints someone to make health care decisions on your behalf.

Medical power of attorney

A medical power of attorney is a revocable written document that also allows someone else to make health care decisions on your behalf; however, it is generally broader in scope than a living will and encompasses all health care situations where you cannot make decisions for yourself.

Your attorney can help you determine which of these documents you need for your own peace of mind and for your family’s well-being.

This information should not be considered tax or legal advice. Please consult your own tax and legal adviser(s) for specific details about your personal situation.