No one likes to think about having to prepare their estate for the “what ifs”, but it is important, as it can be a difficult and challenging situation for your descendants if your estate does not have a last will and testament. Take the precaution to prepare your estate with a last will and testament so that your assets and property will be distributed according to your wishes. It will also help to avoid family disputes, court litigation and a host of other problems that can arise from not having a last will and testament.
It is recommended that anyone over the age of 18 should have a will; even if the estate is very small the last will and testament can also be simple. As one of the first steps in preparing your last will and testament, you should take an inventory of all of your assets worth $100 or more including jewelry, electronics, musical equipment, clothing, collectibles and antiques, vehicles, power tools, guns, and any other valuable assets.
Afterward, you should take an inventory of non-physical assets such as retirement and brokerage accounts, bank accounts, life and all other insurance policies, and more. You should then add up your cumulative debts and credit card debts including your balances for mortgages, HELOCs, car loans, and any other loans that you might have. You should also make a list of organizations and charities that you regularly donate to; this way your descendants and heirs can donate to those organizations if they choose to do so.
There are many other steps in the process of preparing your estate such as updating your life insurance with your beneficiaries, setting up accounts (such as retirement, 401(k), IRA and others) with the right beneficiaries and more. The beneficiaries that are listed with these accounts will take precedence over those listed in a last will and testament, so it is important that beneficiaries on all of your accounts match the ones on your last will and testament, otherwise there will be a conflict.
You will also need to select an estate administrator who is responsible for executing your last will and testament. It may be complicated to get your estate sorted out with a last will and testament, but once it is completed you can feel better knowing that your estate will be distributed exactly as you intended.