Who will get my stuff?

Published 12:06 pm Tuesday, August 22, 2023

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So, I am beginning this article with a cheery subject. Did you know that August is National Make-a-Will Month? When you die, who will get your stuff? Do you have a will? Why do you need a will?

Everyone needs a will. Young and old, rich or poor, you need a will. If you’re living on social security and are a renter with no savings, you may get away without having one, but if you have savings and a life insurance policy, you need a will. Accidents happen, heart attacks and strokes are unexpected, and cancer diagnoses are always unforeseen. Death escapes no one. Yet 66% of Americans do not have a will. This is a staggering statistic.

A will is a legal testament where you document your wishes for dispensing your belongings upon your demise. It lets you give gifts and protects your loved ones from drama and court battles between family members. And it gives your family a clear plan to follow as they settle your final affairs.

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Most people want their assets to create lasting value for the people or organizations they love. But as we age, we tend to be more emotional about things of little monetary value and more about giving family heirlooms. People often want to ensure sentimental items are in the right hands before they die.

Regarding generational wealth, it’s not uncommon for people desiring to leave a legacy—a scholarship fund, an endowment, or the establishment of a foundation. But a simple will is not typically sufficient for these things; you may need to consider a “living trust.” There are several types of living trusts. They include revocable, irrevocable, special needs, and charitable. Your best move for setting up a trust is to engage an estate attorney. 

With decisions made and the trust established, you’ll transfer your assets to the trust. You’re likely to acquire more things as time goes by, so be sure to transfer those assets to your trust, also.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer for a will vs a trust. Most people can get by without using a living trust. Unless you have a substantial estate, a simple will could work just fine. Whatever you decide, you’ll want to act sooner than later in making your wishes official and connecting with a professional. 

So, what’s the difference between a will and a living trust? A living trust skips probate (but you will have attorney fees). Property going through a last will and testament is subject to probate. 

 Also, a will is a public document; a living trust is a private document. 

A guardian for your minor children cannot be appointed through a living trust. Parents of minor children will need a will to set up guardianships (with or without a living trust). A living trust also takes more time and money to set up.

The Foundation for St. Luke’s Hospital is a not-for-profit, 501(c)3 organization established in 1991 to support one of our community’s most valuable assets, St. Luke’s Hospital. The Foundation board are citizens who have joined together to raise funds for new equipment, facility improvements, educational programs, and the Foundation’s endowment.

The St Luke’s Foundation Heritage Society includes individuals who have made known that they have made portions of their estates available either through bequests in their wills or through irrevocable gift arrangements that will ultimately benefit St. Luke’s. The Foundation desires to honor these individuals and their values for community support—disclosure of your planned giving influences others to think more seriously about philanthropy. For more information or to be added to the Heritage Society, please get in touch with the Foundation at 828-894-2693. We are incredibly grateful for those who remember The Foundation for St. Luke’s Hospital in their planning as they invest in the future of healthcare here in Polk County.