|The last Will and Testament of C.F.Beyer 1872/1876:Courtesy of Bradshaw79|
The most important part of estate planning is having a will, say experts like Louis Kreisberg, Principal, Pioneer Wealth Partners. Unfortunately, over 50 percent of Americans die without one, resulting in leaving it up to a state court to decide how to distribute any assets you may have accumulated over your lifetime. If you have children, who cares for them will also be left up to the state courts.
If you have a desire to leave your assets to someone who is not your closest blood relative, or to an organization you support, the courts will not know, and your will not be done.
"Everyone should have a will," says one expert. "It allows assets to go to beneficiaries you name. And if you have children who are minors, it names a guardian, which is extremely important."
Another key aspect of estate planning is keeping the beneficiaries on your individual retirement accounts, 401(k) plans and life insurance policies up to date. Your bank accounts should also have a designated beneficiary.
"As people go through different milestones in life, they need to change their beneficiaries. If you had your parents listed and then you get married, those assets go to your parents. The beneficiary trumps any other estate planning you do."