Effective estate planning helps ensure wishes are followed

Your will is one of the most important documents you will ever sign.

Unfortunately, many people put them off, rely on them solely, attempt to write them on their own, fail to keep them updated and forget to inform loved ones where their wills are stored.

The Community Foundation of Jackson County hopes you might find the following tips and suggestions helpful as you consider making, or perhaps revising, your will.

Be active

Take action in writing your will.

The worst thing you can do in creating a will is to procrastinate. We can keep waiting for a more convenient time, but the years have a way of slipping by. A will delayed is one not done.

Now is the time — while you are able and capable — to do your will. For your sake, and that of your loved ones, write your will now. It could also go a long way toward ensuring the charities you support now continue to benefit from your generosity long into the future.

As an example, a Seymour couple recently took steps to prepare their estate plan. As a result, they established a donor advised fund at the Community Foundation of Jackson County that will benefit their favorite local charities for the next two generations and beyond.

Short of establishing a fund, you can ensure your will can benefit your favorite charities by making bequests to any of the endowed funds administered by the foundation that make annual grants to local agencies. They include Anchor House, Boys & Girls Club, Girls Inc., the foundation and others.

Find help

Saving a few dollars by writing your own will or using a mass-produced generic form found online will not provide the peace of mind and confidence you and your family deserve. Nothing can replace the benefits of a face-to-face meeting with a good estate-planning attorney who asks the right questions and who knows how to draft a will that meets the specific laws of Indiana or your current state of residence.

Ask a trusted friend, your banker, accountant or pastor to recommend an attorney if you don’t have one.

Keep it fresh

One thing’s certain — things change. Children grow up. New laws are passed or tax codes are changed, all affecting estate planning. New developments can occur regarding health issues and financial resources.

Frankly, an outdated will can create more problems for your survivors than it solves. The will you signed in 1970 or 1990 — or even in 2010 — might not be the best thing for your heirs and the charities you want to assist. It’s a good idea to review a will annually. Make sure it does what you want. Keep it current.

Share its existence — and location

A will is worthless unless it can be located and recorded at your death. Yet many people die with a “lost” will. Be sure to put it in a safe place, but also let someone else know where it is. Tell one or more loved ones or a trusted friend. Make sure someone knows where the original is kept.

A little foresight — and some action on your part can spare your family added stress during their time of grief.

The Community Foundation of Jackson County wants you and your loved ones to be protected with a good, up-to-date estate plan, and we have an excellent Estate Planning Guide to share with you. Call us or e-mail us — the guide is available at no cost or obligation.

We’ll be happy to talk with you about your needs and your desires to help your favorite charities for generations to come.

Dan Davis is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Jackson County, 107 Community Drive, Seymour, IN 47274. For information about donating to the foundation, call 812-523-4483 or send an email to president@cfjacksoncounty.org.