Do You Have a Will or Trust to Protect Your Assets?

Most people know what a will is. It’s a written document that disperses your assets and provides a care plan for your dependents after you die. Not everyone knows what a trust is or how important both are for your family. 

Generally speaking, a will is a document that goes into effect after you die, while a trust is in effect while you are alive and includes directives about your assets and the guardianship of minor children. Having a will and/or trust makes your wishes clear and legally makes them binding. Without a will or trust, things get tricky. 

What happens if you have a will or trust? 

  • There are specific guidelines for the disbursement of your assets and the care of your minor children in the event of your death
  • An executor of your choice is designated to oversee your estate and carry out your wishes
  • The time frame for disbursement of your assets and action plan are swift
  • Your wishes are legally binding and generally can’t be overturned 
  • Accounts can be managed and paid even after you die 

What happens if you do not have a will or trust? 

  • Your assets are held while the courts sort out disbursement
  • Someone else may have to incur costs to settle your estate 
  • Your wishes may not be fully known or preserved 
  • You can lose assets that aren’t protected 
  • Your children will not be protected for their care and custody
  • Long periods of time may go by before your estate is settled

A will or trust can help make certain your wishes are carried out and that you don’t lose any assets that are part of your estate. 

Creating a will or trust 

There are a few ways to create a will or trust. A will can be created on your own. There are no-cost and low-cost ways to create a will. There are services that can walk you through the process of creating a will if your estate is modest and you don’t have a lot to manage. 

Note: Writing a will isn’t as simple as sitting down with a Word doc. Once you’ve completed your will, it will need to be accompanied by a Self Proving Affidavit that is notarized. This legally ensures you are the author of your will and makes it easier for your family to enforce after your death.  

The most secure way to create a will or trust is through an attorney. Probate and estate-planning attorneys can help you craft a will or trust that will be recognized by your state in the event of your death and make things easy on your family and beneficiaries. 

You’re Never Too Young or Too Old to Make End-of-Life Plans

By Roz Jones

“The idea is to die young as late as possible”- Ashley Montagu

Most people do not think about end-of-life planning unless they are forced to. It seems so far away when you’re young and vital and unless there is a grim reminder, it feels unnecessary. It sort of feels like something you do when you are older but each day you grow older you just don’t seem to feel old… yet.

You are never too young or too old to make end of life plans. Your planning may vary or change in depth over time, but it’s never too early or too late to talk about such things. Generally, something triggers a chat about end of life. 

  • An accident in your community
  • A loved one dies suddenly
  • Someone you know has a terminal diagnosis 

Things like this spark conversations because they are close to home. It’s a reminder – gentle or shocking – that we are not immortal. 

Here are some pro-tips for talking about end of life planning no matter what your age. 

Pro-tip: Talking with children- Children pass away. It’s an undeniable yet grim fact. Your child may have been touched directly by the passing of a friend or classmate or your child may have been given a diagnosis that could result in their death. Under the right circumstances, having a conversation about end of life plans may be right for your child. 

Ask open-ended questions that get your child thinking. You can ask about mature-themed issues in a way that is child-friendly and age-appropriate. It’s alright to ask about how your child would want to be buried or remembered during a memorial. Use this time to educate your child about the realities that everyone dies and that it is a natural part of living. 

Pro-tip: Talking with teens- Chances are greater your teen will know someone who has passed unexpectedly. Teens can be emotional about death, especially of friends their age. The developmental stage of tween and teen life can elevate emotions and intensify reactions to death. This shouldn’t diminish the importance of tackling the issue head-on. 

Be open and honest with your teen about your feelings about dying, death, and what your perspectives are. Ask for their thoughts and compare and contrast your beliefs. Seek to understand and come to conclusions about what your teen wants and how they feel about important issues like organ donation, life support, and what quality of life means to them. 

Pro-tip: Talking with adults- From your spouse or siblings to your aging parents, there is a wide range of ages in adulthood. Talking about end-of-life plans will vary based on who you are engaging and what role they play. Everyone is different and some people are more resistant to talking about end of life plans. Regardless, there are decisions that need to be made. 

Don’t blindside anyone with a talk about tough issues. Prep and plan to have a discussion. Do your best to decide what medical consents your family member agrees to and who will make decisions if they can’t. Make decisions about the types of burial or cremation they consent to and talk frankly about costs and how they will be met. 

Part of what makes talking about death scary is your attitude about it. The easier you approach the subject, the easier it is to talk about it. You are never too young to begin thinking about how you want to be supported medically and cared for when you die.   

Protecting Yourself Legally, Financially, and Medically for the Future

By Roz Jones

Thinking about end-of-life matters generally brings to mind thoughts about funerals and final resting places. That’s certainly part of the equation but outside of sudden death, there’s probably going to be more to face before you die. Preparing for your end-of-life needs happens long before you are sick or have an accident. 

In the same way that you value having medical insurance and retirement plans, you should also value things like: 

A will or trust

Life insurance

An advance directive 

A designated medical decision-maker

Additional income sources outside of retirement

Successor guardians for dependents 

These are simply a few of the important safeguards that should be in place to protect you and your loved ones if something happens to you and you can’t care for them.

Protecting yourself legally, financially, and medically is an important step towards making sure things are in order and you benefit from your pre-planning. How? 

  • By avoiding burdening your family with making difficult decisions for you
  • By preventing your estate from going into probate
  • By securing care and comfort for an illness, accident, or hospice
  • By ensuring your children or dependents are protected and provided for if you die
  • By providing income to your family for their wellbeing
  • By making sure someone you trust manages your health care if you are injured or sick

This is not an exhaustive list of benefits that planning provides but it does give a healthy snapshot of how many things you can protect and provide by taking time to do some planning.  

You don’t have to make these decisions alone 

While these are personal and important decisions that you must ultimately make, you don’t have to make them alone. There are professionals whose job it is to help you make and solidify your decisions as well as legally bind them so you are sure to be protected if/when you need them. 

Here’s an idea of who can help: 

Generally, you can make a lot of decisions on your own but you may want some advice from a professional before making a final decision. 

Legal help: 

Will and probate attorneys

Trust attorneys

Financial help:

Retirement planners

Investment planners

Insurance agents

Medical help: 

Primary care physician 

Funeral/Burial planning professionals

These providers can help you sort through the choices available to you for your legal, financial, and medical needs. From preparing for retirement and earning and saving money to cover care and end-of-life expenses to making sure your wishes are carried out and your estate and your healthcare are managed in the way you desire. Each of these issues can be managed and coordinated with the help of a professional.