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August is “Make a Will” month, and it’s a good reminder to put a plan in place, or revisit plans to ensure they still represent one’s wishes.
We talked with Kearney attorney Dan Bahensky about the importance of getting a will done. “Most people have certain wishes on how their property should be distributed at their death, or how the guardianship of their children should be handled if they are younger people,” Bahensky said. “Without a will, the State of Nebraska has a plan, but that might not be your plan, or it may not match what you want to have happen. So, it’s important to put your wishes down in writing, and draw up your wishes for guardianship. If you have wishes beyond that for even charitable giving, that should also be included, because the State of Nebraska is only going to give it to your nearest relatives, and it will only include family members.”
Bahensky says there are some things you can do to prepare before going to meet with an attorney about making a will. “You can gather names, addresses and phone numbers of people who are important to you as far as the role they would play with guardianship,” Bahensky said. “You could also have names available for who you’ll want as an executor, or what’s called a personal representative, or a trustee to manage money for younger people. Again, if you have any charitable inclinations, you might want to provide names for different charitable programs where you’ll want to give.”
It’s not all that uncommon for someone to pass away, and not have a will prepared. “We actually see that often in our practice,” Bahensky said. “Family members will come in afterwards and say they were fairly sure the person who died had a will, but they can’t find it. The other problem is, sometimes people just never take the time to make a will. They plan to do it, but never get around to it. They may not want to face their mortality, and never get in to see an attorney who is needed to draw up these papers on their behalf.”
Getting a will done may seem like a big task, but most people do find the process easier than they first thought. Most of the time, people are thinking about what to leave their family members when getting a will prepared. But experts say it’s also a good idea to consider charitable gift planning when possible. “Sometimes people would like to put some of the money back into the community where they accumulated their wealth,” Bahensky said. “One of the important programs that Nebraska Community Foundation has started is called Five to Thrive. It’s asking people to consider leaving 5% of the value of their estate to the community foundation or affiliated fund in their local community. The money can then used to attract people, and provide reasons for people to come back to their hometown.” If you’d like to know more about the Five to Thrive program, and how it fits into will preparation, go to www.fivetothrivene.org. As always, experts recommend you seek out a professional advisor when taking on the process of creating a will and considering charitable gifts.