Your Will, Your Won’t

There is a reason why the main estate-planning document that is used to disburse one’s assets at death is called a “will.” This single word encases the wishes of the deceased. It expresses the intention, the goal, or the purpose of the one making the declaration. The document contains legal words of one’s personal will. “I will that Jennifer receive my pearl necklace.”

In this document, a person establishes the future owners of his or her assets. No one can change a person’s will once death occurs. The will of the deceased continues until every part of it has been completed, every deed done.

In his or her will, the person directs the distribution of all earthly belongings. When the reading of the will occurs during probate, it is as though the grave suddenly opens and the deceased steps out for a few minutes to hand out each and every personal asset to a family member, a charity, or other entity.

When a person dies without a will, they go to the grave powerless to control the distributions of their worldly possessions. They abdicate their “will power.”

A word we might apply to the absence of a will might be “won’t.” This invisible document declares that the descendent died intestate, or without a will. This non-will lets family members and others know that all the worldly possessions of the deceased will be distributed by the will of the state … and this will may vary vastly from what the decedent might have wished.

Do you have a valid, up-to-date will in place? Or have you settled for a “won’t”? For the sake of your family and the charitable causes you support, I urge you to turn your “won’t” into a will.

Allow me to send you a helpful Will Information Kit free of charge. It includes a checklist for preparing your will, as well as important information about other facets of estate planning. To receive your copy, contact me at the Columbus Jewish Foundation at 614-338-2365 or jjacobs@tcjf.org . You may also contact me through the Foundation’s website at www.columbusjewishfoundation.org.

Article appears as originally published in the Ohio Jewish Chronicle, Thursday February 18, 2016.

Jackie Jacobs is the Chief Executive Officer of the Columbus Jewish Foundation, the Central Ohio Jewish community’s planned giving and endowment headquarters.

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