According to a recent study, 67% of Americans don’t have an estate plan. While the pandemic increased awareness of the need for having a will, many of those without estate plans cite “not getting around to it” as the reason. August is National Make a Will Month, an annual reminder of the importance of having a plan in place. Getting your affairs in order doesn’t need to be expensive or time-consuming. Here are some ways you can get started today.

  • Take an inventory of all your assets. List your bank accounts, investments, real estate, jewelry, and personal property. If you have a financial advisor or asset manager, include their contact information.
  • Review beneficiary designations on your life insurance, retirement accounts or other investment accounts. Beneficiary designations go directly to the named beneficiary outside of probate, so be sure these are up to date after any major life events, such as marriage or divorce.
  • Think about your executor. If you are considering a friend or family member to serve as executor of your estate, discuss this with them to be sure they are willing to complete this task. Be sure to include their contact information.
  • Consider if you will include charitable beneficiaries in your estate plan. You can name one organization or more to receive a portion of your estate, or as a beneficiary or partial beneficiary of a life insurance policy or retirement account. Sharing your plans with the charities and organizations you plan to support helps ensure your goals are understood and your bequest will be used as you intended. 
  • If you already have a will, make a point to review it every few years. Your assets, relationships, and family circumstances may change, as well as your wishes, so be sure this document reflects your current situation and plans accurately.

The Office of Planned Giving can help you get started on your estate plan. Our free estate planning guide can help you collect the information necessary to meet with an attorney to start drafting your estate documents. You can also try Freewill*, an online tool to help you create your own will at no cost, or start a draft you can share with your attorney.

If you are interested in supporting Washington University in your estate plan, we can provide language to share with your attorney to ensure your objectives are met or help create a memorandum of understanding that will serve as a guide for the university to use your gift as intended once it is received.

*FreeWill is an online service that provides legal forms and legal information. Freewill is not a law firm and is not a substitute for an attorney’s advice. Please see an attorney for any specific questions or concerns regarding your estate plan.