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August is "National Make a Will Month."   It's a great time to create or update your will, trust, or estate plan to meet your final wishes.

Did you know that estate planning is considered necessary by 56% of Americans?   However, surprisingly only 33% of adults have documented their end-of-life plans.

Despite the importance of having a will, many Americans never consult an attorney to draft one, citing that they didn’t have time or disliked the idea of preparing for their death.  Another common misconception is that you do not need a will unless you're wealthy—but that’s furthest from the truth.

An individual’s wealth and assets may determine how lengthy or in-depth a will or estate planning may be, but it does not dictate the need.   Every family, regardless of their wealth, should have an estate plan.    Without a will or trust, complications can arise quickly — leading to the state’s involvement, possible family feuds, and ultimately a delay in settlements.

Here's why making a will is crucial:

·         Protection for Your Family: A well-crafted will safeguards your family's future by outlining your wishes, including the caretaker/guardian of minor children and pets.   In addition, the will can provide detailed instructions for funeral and similar arrangements.

·         Distribution of Assets and Property: A will specify the beneficiaries to receive assets and tangible property owned by the decedent, which will be distributed according to their wishes and preferences.   The will also will outline instructions for the disposition of digital assets.

·         Identifies the People to Manage the Estate: Regardless of the monetary value, every estate requires someone to wind down the affairs.   These people are named in the will or trust.   Absent an estate plan, a Surrogate Court will designate this person.

·         Securing Your Legacy: Making a will allows you to define how your assets will support causes close to your heart, such as our conservation efforts.

·         Minimize Erosion by Avoiding Unnecessary Taxes: Estates can be subject to a variety of federal and state taxes.   With proper planning, these taxes can be minimized or avoided altogether.

The foregoing discussion is intended to encourage people to seek advice: from an attorney or estate planner to create or update their will, ensuring it reflects their wishes accurately.   It should not be relied upon as legal or tax advice.