Estate planning might be something you thought you would get around to when you got older, but the truth is that setting up an estate plan is not something you should put off.
There are many reasons people avoid or delay estate planning. They may not think they have enough to justify an estate plan or perhaps believe the process is too long, confusing or costly.
The truth is that an estate plan is important for everyone to have. Your estate plan can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. If you are not yet sure what type of estate plan you need, setting up a basic last will and testament is a good place to start.
The benefits of having a will
There are several advantages to having a will, even if you believe you do not own enough to justify drafting one. Chances are, you probably have more assets than you realize, and deciding who you would like them to go to can save your family members time and trouble trying to figure that out on their own after you pass away.
Additionally, a will provides you with the safety and security of knowing your assets are going to the people you want them to. If you pass away without a will, your assets are distributed according to Hawaii probate law, which means some of your most valuable assets could end up going to someone you don’t know or don’t like.
A will involves more than dividing up your assets. It also includes information on who you would like to serve as your executor or guardians for your children and preferences for your funeral arrangements.
Identify your assets
The first step in drafting a will is to do a thorough investigation of all your assets. This includes real property, such as real estate, as well as personal property, such as vehicles, jewelry, furniture or electronics.
Any bank accounts, retirement accounts and investments you hold also qualify as assets that must be distributed. Once you have a list of all your assets, determine an accurate value for each of them. That can help you decide who you would like to give them to.
Choose an executor
Next, give careful thought about who you would like to serve as your executor. This person will be responsible for administering your will, including making sure all assets are properly distributed, all debts are paid and any necessary tax returns are filed. Your executor should be someone you trust to handle these responsibilities.
Drafting your will
You are then ready to have your will drafted. A will in Hawaii must meet certain requirements to be valid. For example, it must be in writing and signed by two witnesses within a reasonable time after you sign it.
It is important that your will meets the legal requirements for it to be valid, otherwise your assets could end up in probate court. It is best to work with a professional to reduce the chance that your will is accidentally to be invalid or challenged by an heir.
Aside from a will, an estate plan can include trusts, advance directives, powers of attorney or various other documents. Each estate planning document has its own purpose. After your will is drafted, it is a good idea to review your overall situation once more to determine if you could benefit from any other estate planning documents.