Estate Planning Pointers

Posted at 5:25 AM, Dec 08, 2015
and last updated 2016-07-04 11:55:04-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) -- AARP says about 40-percent of Baby Boomers have yet to draw up a will, and when it comes to all Americans over the age of 34, it jumps to 71-percent. Many blame procrastination, lack of incentive and expense as the top excuses -- but not planning ahead can really costs your loved ones.Here's more in this Angie's List report.

"While no one looks forward to planning their estate or funeral, it's something we should all do because it can be considered a gift to your family because you're reducing stress that would be on them at that time," said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.

If you pass away without a will, your assets go to your spouse if you have established joint ownership. Any asset not jointly owned, like a car or a piece of jewelry, could cause lengthy and stressful legal battles.

"The keys things are to decide who you would want to have the assets that you have, especially if you're in a second marriage and you're trying to provide for both your spouse as well as children from a previous marriage," said financial planner Susan Elser.

An estate planning attorney can offer advice and file the necessary paperwork to make sure your resources go where you want them. Elser recommends parents establish a trust that allocates inheritance at certain ages so kids don't get too much too soon.

"Trusts are great for people that have young children, people that have a lot of wealth and they're worried about ruining their children's work ethic, people that have a child with disabilities," said Elser.

This is also the time to create a health care plan, in case a medical crisis leaves you unable to communicate.

"Would you want to be artificially sustained through nutrition and a respirator? It's very important to make that decision yourself so you're not leaving that burden to a family member to make," said Elser.

Hicks adds: "You don't need to be wealthy to need a will. Everyone should consider one because it will help just make distribution of your things - even the sentimental items - easier and alleviate stress and fighting in your family."

Expect to pay at least $1,500 for even the most basic estate planning services, but make sure you understand all the fees up front. Also, double-check your life insurance and retirement account beneficiaries. Those  supersede whatever is written in your will.

Remember you can catch the latest Angie's List report every Tuesday morning on WTXL Sunrise.