From wills to insurance to probate: it’s all about protecting your assets and the ones you love.
Draw Up a Will
It’s an obvious first step, but many people don’t even bother to draw up a will. In fact, a 2014 Rocket Lawyer survey of 2,048 adults found 64 percent of Americans don’t have a will. What’s more, 17 percent said they didn’t think they needed one.
However, without a will, your estate must be divided in probate court, a process that could leave your beneficiaries footing a big bill. “If your estate is not properly constructed, the only person that wins is the attorney,” says Sean P. Lee, co-founder of the financial education organization Retirement Elevated.
Check Your Beneficiaries
Not all assets are disbursed through a will. Some accounts, such as retirement funds and life insurance policies, let owners name beneficiaries for that particular asset.
“You’d be surprised how many people have no beneficiary or a previous spouse listed,” Lee says. Without a named beneficiary, an account will need to go to probate court, where a judge will decide who gets the money.
It’s a good idea to review beneficiary information after every major life change, including the birth of children, marriage or divorce. “You want your money to go where you want it to go.