Gifts of Bequests From Your Will or Trust
How it works
Next: Important Details...
Please contact us so that we can assist you through every step of the process.
Questions and Answers:
Some sixty percent of Americans die without a valid will. This is unfortunate in most cases, because State laws will take over and will distribute your estate in accordance to a prescribed formula — possibly in ways that you would not choose. Any charitable interests you wanted to benefit will not occur.
One thing is certain as we go through life and that is change.
The circumstances of life change constantly. If you have taken steps to write a will, you can be certain that your circumstance and the makeup of your estate will change from time to time. It is important that you do not procrastinate to get your will amended or even re-written as these changes in life occur. Here are some common events that should trigger you to update or change your will: Marriage; divorce; a new baby; step children; named heirs pass away; you move from a common-law property state to a community-law property state or visa versa; you dispose of or purchase significant assets; guardianship is no longer needed for your adult children; you change your mind about your bequests to heirs; you wish to add or change a charitable beneficiary.
Some states allow an individual to compose a will. If it is properly witnessed and signed, many Probate Courts will accept such a will.
However, most people have no idea how to get started with such a task. And will they adequately cover all the bases in a self-authored document?
A will is a very important legal document, and it is wise to employ the expertise of a qualified attorney. A will is one of the least expensive legal documents you would pay for, but a well-written document could save your heirs much more in dollars and hassle.
A codicil is a simple amendment to a will which avoids the cost and complication of re-writing the entire will. The codicil must be signed and witnessed or notarized as is the original will.
An executor or personal representative is the person you assign the responsibility to manage and distribute your estate in accordance with your will. An executor’s work will be monitored by the Probate Court. An executor does not need to be an expert in finances, probate law or taxes. They can and should hire such experts that are needed to assist them. A good executor will be honest, organized and possess good common sense. Your executor should be willing to serve in this capacity too. Most people will name their spouse or an adult child, or some other close heir. If possible, name someone who lives nearby and who is familiar with your financial matters. That will make it easier to do chores like collecting mail, selling assets and finding important records and papers.
This is the court which determines the validity of a will and provides judicial oversight over the distribution of the estate. If there is no valid will then the Probate Court will appoint an administrator of the estate to facilitate the estate’s distribution in accordance with state law. In some states the Probate Curt may be known as a Surrogate’s Court.
Non-probate assets are any assets in your estate that will pass to heirs outside of the Probate Court. Examples include jointly held property such as real estate or jointly held bank accounts; and assets that will pass to heirs based on a death benefit beneficiary designation that are prestated in a life insurance policy or qualified retirement plan (such as an IRA).
Additionally, some people title all their property in a living trust, and at death, the named trustee will distribute or manage assets in accordance with the trust document. The trust and assets possessed by the trust are not reviewed by the Probate Court. In states where probate fees are expensive, a living trust can save on those costs. Also, those who own property in another state may want to consider a living trust so that they do not have to deal with two Probate Courts.
The professionals at our Department of National Planned Giving, Legacy and Endowments will be happy to discuss your interests, concerns and financial options, and work personally with you and/or your legal and financial advisors to create a plan that meets your needs and supports the Anti-Defamation League Foundation.
For more information, please contact:
Director of National Planned Giving, Legacy and Endowments
Anti-Defamation League Foundation (ADLF)
605 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10158
This information is provided for educational purposes. The Anti-Defamation League Foundation and ADL are not financial, legal or tax advisors. Please contact your advisors regarding your financial, legal or tax needs.