Over the past six months, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people seeking online tools or the advice of professionals in drafting or updating their wills. Estate planning can seem daunting at first, but a little planning now can pay off big later. A will protects the people and assets that matter most to you and ensures that your wishes are carried out when you are gone. To answer some of the most common questions about estate planning, we turned to Sean Devlin, Esq. and Melissa Sgambati, Esq., of Engel Devlin Sgambati, LLC.

Q. I don’t have that much money. Do I still need a will?

A. Think beyond just your bank account. Non-cash assets such as your home, jewelry, paintings, etc. can add up quickly. If you have young children, you need a will to plan for who you would want to care for them when you are gone. You may want your will to contain trusts for your children if you pass when they are minors. Such trusts ensure that your assets are managed for your children and distributed to them by a trustee in the manner directed by you. Investing a small amount now to draft your will can save your heirs from incurring significant legal fees later if assets or guardianship of your children are contested.

Q. I prepared a will 20 years ago – that should be fine, right?

A. You should revisit your will every few years with your attorney. Tax laws, which are always evolving, can greatly affect the disposition of your assets – to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. In addition, any substantial change in your family, such as a divorce or death, should prompt another look at your will.

Q. If I identify my heirs in my will, does it matter who is listed as a beneficiary on my retirement plan/IRA/life insurance policy?

A. Yes! In most cases, the person listed on your beneficiary form will trump whatever is in your will. As a result, it is not uncommon for assets to be distributed contrary to what is outlined in your will. It is important to make sure that your beneficiary designations are up to date and that alternate beneficiaries are named where appropriate.

It is not painful to make a will. Many are quite simple to prepare, and it provides peace of mind to know that the people (or pets) that you love will be cared for and that your wishes will be carried out.

(Reprinted with permission from Pingry School in Basking Ridge, New Jersey)

Return to the December, 2020 issue of The Cornerstone.