Daily Dupaco

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Making a will: Taking the mystery out of the process

By Emily Kittle

Writing a will is a lot like going to the dentist. You know you should do it, but it's not exactly pleasant.

If you're among the many adults who have avoided putting your final wishes on paper, Dale Repass has some advice: Stop procrastinating.

"It provides peace of mind by having gone through the process and having something in place," says Repass, chief executive officer of First Community Trust, a Dubuque-based investment management company.

Here are six things to expect when writing a will:

  • Usually, it's not just the will that gets drafted. There are related documents of equal importance that your attorney will provide. A durable power of attorney, for instance, delegates the power to handle your financial affairs should you become disabled or incapacitated. A health care power of attorney names a trusted relative to make health care decisions for you should you become unable to do so.
  • You can name an executor, someone you desire to carry out your will. It's a good idea to name an alternate executor in case your first choice is unable to serve.
  • You can name the guardian of your minor children. You also can create trusts underneath your will to both manage and distribute money for your minor children.
  • A will allows you to designate gifts to your favorite charities.
  • Preparing a will is relatively inexpensive and well worth your money. Good estate planning can result in a will that saves thousands of dollars in federal estate taxes.
  • It's not a lengthy process. There are usually a handful of decisions to make, and you can easily make changes to your will if your circumstances change (marriage, divorce, birth). It's a good idea to review your will every two to three years.

Dying without a will

What happens if you don't have a will? Everything - from who receives your possessions to guardianship of your children - will be decided for you.

"If you don't have a will, the state of Iowa has one for you, and it will delineate exactly who gets what," Repass says.

Repass remembers a case where a young mother was killed in an automobile accident. She didn't have a will. And it was up to a judge to decide which grandparents would raise the deceased woman's 2-year-old son.

"It may not have been what the lady wanted," Repass says. "But she didn't have a will."

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