Financial Tips

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 28, 2001


The importance of a written will is for family and financial safety “It is the will that makes the action good or ill.” Robert Herrick When English poet Robert Herrick wrote these words in the seventeenth century, he was referring to the purpose of a person’s actions rather than a Last Will and Testament. However, his words might apply equally well to the distribution of a person’s property after death. If the purpose of your actions is to provide for your family, and if you want to see them experience good rather than ill, you might consider the numerous advantages of having a will: You decide how your property and assets will be distributed. If you die without a will (“intestate,” in legal parlance), the state decides for you. If you want to make special provisions a gift to charity, for example, or a trust for your children’s education you need a will to implement such provisions. You decide who will be the guardian of your minor children. No one knows your children and their needs better than you do. Yet without a will, the state must make this very important decision. Do you really want to leave such a vital decision in someone else’s hands? You choose who will be the executor of your estate. You may choose a family member, a friend, a professional advisor or a corporate executor, for the duties of an executor are numerous and varied, you should thoughtfully consider this decision. If you don’t select an executor in your will, the state may appoint someone who knows little about you or your family. You can spare your family the delays and added expense of a long-drawn-out administration process to settle your estate. Your death will be difficult enough for your family and loved ones. With a well-prepared will, the transition will usually be much smoother for everyone. You can minimize taxes on your estate. Certain financial arrangements, testamentary trusts for example, can reduce the taxes on your estate. You can secure proper management for your assets. If you have substantial investments and you want these investments to provide for your family’s future needs, you should arrange for a qualified professional manager to supervise the investments after you’re gone. Expecting an inexperienced person or court-appointed executor to manage investments properly is unwise. You can secure peace of mind in knowing that your family or other heirs will be well taken care of according to your desires. You wouldn’t go away on an extended vacation without arranging for someone to watch over your house or without making sure your business was in good hands, would you? Why not take similar precautions to guarantee your family’s security in case an unexpected tragedy should occur? No one likes to think about death and the consequences for the survivors. But no one wants to leave his or her family unprotected either. If you haven’t already made out a will, you should consider doing so. And, if you have a will, you might want to review its provisions to make sure it still accomplishes the good intentions you desire. ALAN S. MOORE is a Financial Advisor of Legg Mason Wood Walker, Inc., a diversified securities brokerage and financial services firm that is a member of the New York Stock Exchange, Inc.