For Your Bucket List

December 2013
Written By: 
Ginny Grimsley

Financial expert explains the vital importance of a will





Of the recent trendy terms, “bucket list” remains among the most useful, says retirement planning expert Jeff Gorton.

“I hope it endures because it reminds us of how precious our time is—and that it’s important to plan wisely,” says Gorton, a veteran Certified Public Accountant and Certified Financial Planner.

Only about 40 percent of adults in America have a will. “But what’s the alternative? If you die without one, the state decides what becomes of your property, without regard to your priorities,” says Gorton, who also advocates his clients make use of a written income plan (WIP), a living document that helps organize financial priorities.

Since so many adults don’t have a will, many don’t understand them. Gorton breaks down wills into four basic parts:

Executors: Most wills begin by naming an executor, the person responsible for carrying out the wishes outlined in the will. Duties include assessing the value of the estate, gathering the assets, paying inheritance tax and other debts if necessary, and distributing assets among beneficiaries.

Guardians: A will allows you to designate a guardian for your minor children. For many people, this is the most important part. If you die without naming a guardian, the court will decide who takes care of your children.

Gifts: This section enables you to identify people or organizations to whom you wish to give gifts of money or possessions.

Estate: Your estate encompasses everything you own, including real property, financial investments, cash and personal possessions. Once you have identified specific gifts you would like to distribute, you can apportion the rest in equal shares among your heirs, or you can split it into percentages.