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Wills aren’t just for the rich and elderly

If you have any assets it’s always a good idea to have s a will — whether you want to support your kids, your pets or even just leave money to charity after your death.

Even younger folks in their twenties could benefit from estate planning.

However, two-thirds of Americans haven’t created any sort of estate planning document, according to a 2023 study by senior living referral business Caring.com. While some say they’ve been procrastinating, others think they don’t have enough wealth to leave behind.

But stalling puts your loved ones at risk and can create ugly disputes long after you’re gone — so here’s how to get started.

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Make a list of assets and debts

Begin by taking note of your assets, including your home, your car and anything you own that’s valued over $1,500. This can also include nonphysical assets such as investments, bank accounts and insurance policies.

Next, list your debts, such as your credit card balances, auto loans and mortgages. It’s best for your loved ones to stay informed of what debts they will need to take on.

Pick your beneficiaries

To avoid any major disputes between your loved ones in the future, it’s important to name your beneficiaries in your will.

These could be family members, charities, businesses or a trust — but make sure you’re specific over who gets what. If you want to protect your pets, you can even name a guardian to take care of them and leave behind funds for their upkeep.

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Choose the right executor

Next, pick someone you trust to carry out the terms of your will and manage any unresolved affairs, like paying bills and taxes.

If you don’t name an executor, someone will have to apply to handle your estate via probate court, or the court will name an executor.

Figure out how you want to divide your estate

The hardest step is deciding how to distribute your major assets. Consider having a conversation with your loved ones in advance so everybody’s clear what happens when you’re gone and your will is being read.

You should also review and update your will when needed to include any new assets or debts being, or big changes in your life, such as a divorce, for example.

Talk to a pro

Lastly, think about consulting a professional. While it is possible to write up a will without a lawyer, they can help with more complex financial matters, such as if you’re a business owner or if you’ve got a complicated family situation — or you want to disinherit your kids.

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Serah Louis is a reporter with Moneywise.com. She enjoys tackling topical personal finance issues for young people and women and covering the latest in financial news.

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