5 key questions to structure your will
Answering the following questions will provide the foundation for structuring your last will and testament.
1. Who should I name as my beneficiaries?
This can be a single individual, a number of individuals, one or more nonprofit organizations, or a combination.
2. How should my assets be distributed among beneficiaries?
In a will, you can list specific items and who will receive them. These items may include heirlooms, the family home or other assets. You can also bequeath specific dollar amounts to various beneficiaries. And you can designate a certain percentage of your assets to beneficiaries of your choice, once expenses and debts have been paid and other bequests have been made. Many people choose to incorporate a combination of these approaches. Remember, you can make changes later if needed; the key is to have a will in place.
3. Who will I name to serve as executor of my estate?
This person can be a family member or trusted friend, a legal or financial professional or an institution. Keep in mind that serving as executor of an estate can be a time-consuming process involving detailed asset valuations and reporting. The most effective executor is one who has the needed skills and can dedicate the time required to fulfill these responsibilities. You may prefer to designate co-executors, including a family member or friend along with an institution.
4. Do I need to name a guardian for my minor children?
If you have young children, naming a guarding for them is an important step. You may also want to establish a trust and name a trustee to protect their inheritance.
5. I have complex family relationships. Might this require additional legal documents?
Possibly. If, for example, you're in a second marriage involving a spouse's children from a previous marriage, you may want to talk with your attorney about ways to ensure your assets are divided according to your wishes.
The process of structuring and executing your will
When structuring a last will and testament, remember that states have different requirements to ensure that a will is honored. Here are the typical steps involved in structuring and executing a will.
1. Getting witnesses
Typically, a will must be written, signed, dated and witnessed by two people to be considered legally valid. In some states, the document must also be notarized. To avoid any implication that you've written the will under undue pressure, beneficiaries to the will shouldn't serve as witnesses. It's a good idea to initial and date each page of the document.
2. Filing your will
Following your death, your executor must file your will with the appropriate clerk of court, typically in the county where you were residing at the time of your death. The court determines whether the will is valid and, if so, allows it to enter a process known as probate.
Upon probate, your executor is required to follow a number of actions. These actions include providing detailed inventories of your assets and their value, ensuring that all insurance and other proceeds are received and that all debts and taxes are paid. The court oversees each step in the probate process, which typically takes at least 6 months and often longer.
Some wills don't have to be submitted for probate. If all property is held in joint tenancy or is owned by certain types of trusts you've created, probate may be avoided, along with the costs of probating the will. When probate is complete, your assets can be divided among your beneficiaries.
Keeping your will up to date
It's important to review your will from time to time, especially if key events in your life trigger the need for possible changes. Examples include:
- Marriage or divorce
- Birth or adoption of a child or grandchild
- Death of a named beneficiary
- Death of an executor or guardian
- Change of residence to a different state
- Dramatic change in your financial circumstances
- Regulatory change affecting estate planning
It may not be necessary to completely rewrite your will in order to update it. You may be able to attach a codicil—a written amendment used to add to, remove from or otherwise modify the terms of the original will. A codicil must be signed, witnessed and dated, and must reference the original will.
As with all important financial documents, it's important to store your will in a safe place where it will be easily accessible. Make sure to talk through the provisions of the will with your executor(s) and provide a copy to them.
The bottom line
Creating a will is a smart financial move. First, you need to answer some important foundational questions. Once you've structured your will and understand how it will be executed, you'll want to keep it current. Then, you can rest easy knowing that your loved ones will be taken care of in the future.
How Can I Best Determine the Value of My Company? (Article)
Understanding your company’s value is both an art and a science, and a team of experts can guide you along the way.
How Can I Minimize Taxes in Retirement? (Article)
With the right strategies, it’s possible to defer, reduce and even avoid certain taxes and penalties in retirement.
How Should I Plan for Retirement Income? (Article)
Proper financial planning can help you meet your retirement goals.
Traditional banking services are provided by Truist Bank, Member FDIC.
Only deposit products are FDIC insured.
Investment and Insurance Products:
• Are not FDIC or any other Government Agency Insured • Are Not Bank Guaranteed • May Lose Value
Truist, BB&T®, BB&T Securities®, BB&T Sterling Advisors, Sterling Capital®, BB&T Investments, BB&T Scott & Stringfellow®, SunTrust®, SunTrust PortfolioView, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey®, SunTrust Premier Program®, AMC Pinnacle®, AMC Premier®, Access 3®, Signature Advantage Brokerage, Custom Choice Loan®, SunTrust SummitView® and GFO Advisory Services® are service marks of Truist Financial Corporation. All rights reserved. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
Services provided by the following affiliates of Truist Financial Corporation: Banking products and services, including loans and deposit accounts, are provided by SunTrust Bank and Branch Banking and Trust Company, both now Truist Bank, Member FDIC. Trust and investment management services are provided by SunTrust Bank and Branch Banking and Trust Company, both now Truist Bank, and SunTrust Delaware Trust Company. Securities, brokerage accounts and /or insurance (including annuities) are offered by SunTrust Investment Services, Inc. and BB&T Securities, LLC, and P.J. Robb Variable Corp., which are SEC registered broker-dealers, members FINRA, SIPC, and a licensed insurance agency where applicable. Investment advisory services are offered by SunTrust Advisory Services, Inc., GFO Advisory Services, LLC, BB&T Securities, LLC, Sterling Capital Management, LLC, Precept Advisory Group, LLC, and BB&T Institutional Investment Advisors, Inc., each SEC registered investment advisers. BB&T Sterling Advisors, BB&T Investments and BB&T Scott & Stringfellow are divisions of BB&T Securities, LLC. Mutual fund products are advised by Sterling Capital Management, LLC. Mortgage products and services are offered through SunTrust Mortgage, a tradename for SunTrust Bank now Truist Bank.
The information contained herein is for informational purposes only and does not represent an official statement of your SunTrust Investment Services, Inc. account. Please refer to your monthly or quarterly statements for a complete record of your transactions, holdings, and balances.
"SunTrust Advisors" may be officers and/or associated persons of the following affiliates of Truist Financial Corporation: SunTrust Bank now Truist Bank, our commercial bank, which provides banking, trust and asset management services; SunTrust Investment Services, Inc., a registered broker-dealer, which is a member of FINRA and SIPC, and a licensed insurance agency, and which provides securities, annuities and life insurance products; SunTrust Advisory Services, Inc., a SEC registered investment adviser which provides Investment Advisory services.
SunTrust Private Wealth Management, International Wealth Management, GenSpring, Business Owner Specialty Group, Sports and Entertainment Group, and Legal and Medical Specialty Groups are marketing names used by SunTrust Bank now Truist Bank, SunTrust Investment Services, Inc., and SunTrust Advisory Services, Inc.
SunTrust Robinson Humphrey is the trade name for the corporate and investment banking services of Truist Financial Corporation and its subsidiaries, including SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., member FINRA and SIPC.
Services and products featured herein may include some offered by affiliated companies of BB&T Wealth. The fees for those services and products are in addition to the fees charged by BB&T Wealth. As a result, BB&T Corporation, as a whole, receives more compensation than would otherwise be received if a non-affiliated service or product was used. When we offer any service or product to a client, we use the same process to offer both affiliated and non-affiliated services and products. When we have authority to select any service or product on behalf of a client, if our process shows affiliated services and products to be competitive with corresponding non-affiliated services and products, then we may select affiliated products and services. BB&T Wealth expresses no opinion on the use of BB&T affiliated services and products when the client selects such services and products in a client-directed account.
BB&T and its representatives do not offer tax advice. The information provided should not be considered tax or legal advice. Please consult with your individual tax advisor/or attorney regarding your individual circumstances.
Branch Banking and Trust Company is now Truist Bank. Learn more.
BB&T and SunTrust have merged to become Truist. Both institutions will continue to offer independent product lines for a period of time. This may include differing underwriting guidelines, product features, terms, fees and pricing. Our friendly teammates at your local SunTrust branches will be happy to walk you through their respective products. You can also learn more by contacting them at 800-SUNTRUST or SunTrust.com.