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Thinking about your death may seem morbid, but planning ahead can help you rest assured your finances will be in place for those you leave behind when the time does come … eventually. As unpleasant as it may seem, planning your estate now will ensure you have a say in what happens to your assets. Don’t be afraid of the process, as it can be quite straightforward. Check out the following tips for writing a will.

1. Appoint a Default or Substitute Executor

Although you will likely choose your executor wisely, be sure you have a fallback option in case that person dies with or before you. It can be a demanding role, so it’s a good idea to choose responsible people who are willing to take on the role.

2. Leave a Residual Legacy

While the big items (like a house) and accounts (like life insurance) may be easy to assign, it’s important to make sure you do not forget to assign your “residue,” or what is left over. You must specify a beneficiary for every asset, or remaining funds will be subject to the laws of intestacy (dying without a will).

3. Study Your Taxes

The taxes associated with death can be complicated, but it’s important to understand and review them. There are certain ways to give gifts tax-free and reduce your estate. There are also certain states in the nation with lower estate taxes. Establishing a trust may also make sense, depending on your personal situation. It’s a good idea to review both federal and state laws governing estates or even consult a professional about your options.

4. Do Not Involve Beneficiaries

Making decisions about your estate with those who will receive inheritance can sway your decision. Your will should reflect your wishes, not necessarily the wishes of your beneficiaries. It may be best to leave them out of the process for fear of conflict and unfair assignments. However, be sure to involve guardians in the process in the chance you die leaving children under age 18 to inherit your estate.

5. Update When Necessary

An all too common mistake in creating wills is forgetting to change them when your circumstances change. Marriages, divorces, children and the health of family and friends can influence what you want to happen to your assets after you die. It’s important to review your will again after any major life changes.

If you haven’t started the process of writing a will, now is as good a time as any to start. And if you have already gotten to work, be sure you have accounted for the aforementioned areas. This is your chance to create your legacy, so be sure your assets are put to the best use (or at least where you want them to go) even after you’re gone.

If you’re in debt right now, you may not have much of an estate to pass onto your heirs when you’re gone. If you can get out of debt, that’s the best way to ensure your heirs won’t be stuck with your debt when you die. You can see how your debt is affecting your credit scores for free on Credit.com.

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