If You're Over 50, Don't Leave This Out of Your Will, Expert Says

While it may be uncomfortable to think about, one of the most important financial decisions you can make as you get older is to set up a will. Despite the emotional toll it may cause in the short term, having control over what happens with your estate when you pass away will be worth it. Without a will, decisions made about your property and assets will be handed over to local courts, which can make an already challenging time even harder for your loved ones. Read on to see the one thing a financial expert advised not to leave out of your will if you're over 50.

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You need to address the possibility of incapacity.

According to a 2021 survey from Caring.com, nearly two-thirds of adults still don't have a will. Of course, discussing estate planning isn't easy—but the reality is, it's necessary. But even for those who have or are planning to check off this box soon, many often don't consider a plan for addressing the possibility of incapacity. "Your plan is not complete unless you've also got some way of addressing incapacity," says New York City Trusts and Estates attorney George Bischof. "The simple tool for that is power of attorney, the more robust tool for that would be a lifetime trust or a revocable trust." In the event you're incapable of making decisions because of your mental state or disability, this acts as a fail-safe.

Your will shouldn't stand alone.

According to Bischof, a will should be "a part of a package of documents that address not only who gets what and who does what when you die, but also who can take care of business if you're not able to care for yourself." Designating someone in advance allows you to avoid having court involvement and lets you take control of your future. "The law provides plenty of opportunities for you to select who will have authority and care for you if you become incapacitated," he explains. Ultimately, this is something that you can and should discuss with an estate planning lawyer or whoever is helping you set up your will.

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Make sure you have backups in your will.

Selecting loved ones you trust should be the case in all parts of the estate planning process. But it's important to make sure that you have backups in case someone can't fulfill their role. "Many people as they turn 50 and see their thriving, productive children making their way in the world miss the idea that their children may not be available or able to serve a role," says Bischof. Naming more than one backup or successor might not seem like it's significant, but you need to consider the possibility that a loved one might be incapacitated, pre-decease you, or be unavailable.

Keep your will up-to-date.

As your life changes, so do your needs. It's important to make sure that your will is up-to-date. "Check your wills from time to time and make sure that it reflects your current plan," says Bischof. Additionally, you should ensure you know where an original copy of the will is since "it's like a passport." It's important to keep track of, he says. But that doesn't mean you have to hold onto it yourself. "It can be with your attorney or some other secure place," says Bischof. "But you want to know where it is."

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