Retirement & Financial Planning Report

To ensure your will stands up it should be written, by an attorney. Wills that you write yourself, or fill-in-the-blanks preprinted wills, may not cover all of your particular circumstances. Generally, you and your spouse should have individual wills rather than joint wills, for more flexibility.

Be specific in your bequests. Don’t assume that your son knows that he’s to receive your stamp collection and your sister knows she’ll inherit your mother’s pearls. Spell out those bequests with enough detail so there’s no confusion. Don’t make bequests such as, “the contents of the desk in my office go to Phyllis,” because you don’t know what will be there, at some future time.

ADVERTISEMENT

Another good tactic is a residuary” clause, a clause that states that anything not specifically mentioned in your will goes to your spouse, or to a specific child, or to someone else. Again, that will help reduce confusion.

At the end of the document, restate for the record that this is your last will, consisting of a certain number of pages. Make sure that the pages are numbered and that you initial each one. Get at least three people who aren’t beneficiaries to act as witnesses, making sure to include their addresses as well.

Keep in mind that your last will probably won’t be the final word. At certain points in your life, your will should be amended.

Births (of relatives) and deaths (of anyone named in your will) may require new wills. They same is true if you move to a new state, where the laws may be different.

In addition, you probably will want to change your will if your economic circumstances change significantly; you might inherit assets from your parents, for example. Changes in federal estate tax law might make a new will desirable.

Have your will reviewed every two years to see if it still reflects your present circumstances. When it’s time for a change, you may have to completely re-write your will or you might merely amend it by a slight modification, called a codicil. Again, consult with an attorney.