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What is estate planning and why is it important?

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If you have children, a will allows you to name a guardian for them should you die before they become adults.

Distributing assets

No matter the size of your estate, a will is your way of having the final say in how the assets you've acquired during your life will be shared after you die. In your will, you get to decide who receives what.

There are few limits to the people and entities eligible to receive your assets. Charities, friends, relatives, and children are all possibilities. Although some states have laws about spousal rights that might take precedence regardless of what you put in your will, a will can help you direct your assets how you choose.

Wills can also state how you want specific assets to be divided between your beneficiaries. You can designate financial accounts, your home, and family heirlooms to be distributed to specific people and in specific amounts.

Protecting your family

When someone dies, it's always a stressful time. On top of grief, funeral arrangements, and other business that has to be taken care of, dying without a will can add more questions to an already difficult situation.

When you have a will, your family and loved ones won't be left to guess what you wanted. Wills can help your family know your intentions from how your assets should be distributed to your preferences for your funeral service and your remains. The details you spell out in your will are as much for you as your loved ones.

Prevent intestacy

When you die without a will, the legal system calls that dying "intestate." When you die intestate, the state where you live might determine how your property is distributed1 according to state laws. The state's intentions and yours might not be the same.

Name executor

A will allows you to name an executor to carry out your wishes. An executor is a person who handles distributing your assets. Your executor files your will with the courts for probate,2 which is the legal process that recognizes a will as valid and empowers the executor to carry out the terms of your will.

After the will is accepted for probate, the executor will perform tasks like closing credit cards and bank accounts, organizing and paying off debt, gathering your assets, distributing assets to beneficiaries, and paying any taxes you might owe.

Name a guardian for minor children

If you have children, your will allows you to recommend a guardian for any minor children in the event of your death. While final approval of guardians is up to the court, they will take into account your wishes when they determine your children's welfare. Estate planning can be complicated, but we're here to help. Call us at 1-888-SYNOVUS (1-888-796-6887) to connect with a trust expert who can assist you in navigating the estate planning landscape.

This content is general in nature and does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.

  1. American Bar Association, "Introduction to Wills," accessed September 3, 2020. Back
  2. American Bar Association, "The Probate Process," accessed September 3, 2020 Back