Expert advice on wills and estate planning

56% of Americans think having a will is important

(InvestigateTV) — Only 33% of adults in America have legal wills or estate plans, according to LegalZoom.

If someone passes away without a will, their belongings are considered “intestate,” meaning that state law determines who will receive any assets such as their home, bank accounts, cars, etc.

Michael Joyce, with the financial firm Agili, said it’s important people look at how their money will pass to family if something happens to them. He said a lot of couples have money in joint names – those would pass automatically to a spouse.

Joyce said people should check their beneficiaries’ designations on all accounts like IRAs, 401Ks or life insurance policies.

“You want to see how those are set up and make sure they do have beneficiary designations because something with a designation wouldn’t go through a will anyway,” Joyce explained. “Beneficiary designations would supersede anything that a will says anyway.”

Joyce urged people to create a will, primarily to identify who would take care of any children.

“And you want to have provisions in what happens if both spouses die, you know,” Joyce said. “Do you want kids to get the money they turn the legal age of majority, which would be 18 or do you want to put it trust for a certain period of time for their benefit? Have a trustee.”

He suggested selecting a family member or close friend to be a trustee until children reach a more mature age.

Rachel DePompa

Rachel DePompa

Rachel DePompa is Director of Investigations and a mid-day anchor for NBC12.