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Getting Started

If you have yet to prepare a will or trust, hopefully our previous blogs encouraged you to think about doing so.

As you begin the process of preparing a will, there are a number of important things to consider.

Assess your financial situation by preparing a detailed list of your assets (property, family business, investments, bank accounts, personal items). Not all assets can be bequeathed in a will. You can only distribute property you own solely. Also, any asset already subject to laws regarding its distribution upon your death (e.g., IRA, life insurance policy, property held in a living trust) cannot be included in your will.

Make a list of your debts. Include mortgages, loans, leases, credit cards and outstanding taxes. This list plus your assets provides an overall view of your financial status, thus enabling you to plan for future expenses such as your funeral, probate costs and taxes.

Determine who will be your beneficiaries. It may not seem necessary to include family members by name, but recent births, marriages, divorces, adoptions, etc. may influence whom you want to include and whom you want to omit. Don’t forget to include charitable organizations. Most of them provide you with the required information on their website. To obtain this information for the Sisters of Charity, click

Name an executor. This individual will oversee probate, the distribution of your assets, and payments of your debts and taxes. Make sure they are willing to accept this responsibility and are up to the task. The person you name doesn't have to have any specific training because your executor can retain a lawyer to help.

Name a guardian if you have minor children. Your will is the ideal place to name a guardian if their other parent is unable to care for them. This is also the time to consider how you want any property you leave them to be managed until they reach the age of majority.

No matter how you choose to draft your will, the important thing is to get started. Read the next blog to see your options for preparing the actual document, especially if you need legal advice.

Once you have accumulated all the necessary documents and made some critical decisions, it is time to prepare your will. As mentioned earlier, you have a number of options. If your estate is relatively simple and your wishes straightforward, you can search online for a dependable product. Make sure it complies with your state’s laws regarding the execution of wills, sign it in the presence of at least two witnesses and keep it in a safe place. Make sure family members know where it is.

If you do require legal assistance (and you will for a trust), here are some suggestions for finding the right attorney to meet your needs.

* Ask family, friends and business associates for recommendations

* Contact your local or state bar association

* Search online and read consumer reviews

Once you have a list of candidates, take advantage of the free initial consultation offered by most attorneys. During each visit, note how well your questions are answered, potential costs, who in the firm would be handling your file, and how their office will communicate with you. Do you feel comfortable with this person?

Make it a goal during August Make-a-Will Month to either begin the will-making process or review your current estate plan. It will be a relief to know your estate is managed, and your loved ones will have the security they need. It is also the opportunity to include charitable organizations to enable them to continue their missions and for you to know you made a difference.

The Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth are engaged in education, health and pastoral care, women’s services, social service ministries, and retreat and spiritual services throughout the United States, El Salvador and Haiti. Leaving them a gift in your will enables the sisters to continue their Mission of Charity for many years to come. Please watch this short video which depicts the impact the sisters have had over the years on the people of Haiti.

The information provided in this blog is not intended as legal advice. Be sure to consult with your own attorney, accountant, or financial advisor before making any major financial decisions.

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