Wills, advance
directives and more:
Document your wishes

 
If something happened to you, who would care for your children? Would your financial assets be distributed according to your wishes? Don't leave things to chance.

Communicate your wishes

If you pass away without a will, a probate court will decide what happens to your assets based on the laws of your state. Here are some ways to help ensure your wishes are communicated and carried out:

Wills: Wills range from simple to complex. It's best to hire a lawyer to draft your will to ensure your will is valid and can be upheld in probate court.

Trusts: If your wishes are more complex than a simple transfer of assets, consider forming a trust to administer your estate. A trust, along with a will, can sometimes distribute assets to heirs more efficiently, protect your assets from creditors and lawsuits, and reduce estate and gift taxes.

Advance directives: An advance directive outlines how you want medical decisions to be made for you if you can no longer make them yourself:

  • A living will includes your specific instructions for health care professionals
  • A health care proxy designates someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf
Read:
A living will includes your
specific instructions
for health care
professionals
Designate a guardian
for children under 18
and include this decision
in your will

Select a guardian

If you have children under 18, designate a guardian for them: Someone who will care for them as you would, direct their education, and manage their financial affairs. Include this important decision in your will and communicate it to the selected guardian ahead of time.
Taxes & your estate
In 2018, taxes will kick in once your estate's assets top $5,600,000. Since the IRS adjusts this amount annually for inflation, talk with a tax advisor about reducing your estate tax exposure.Footnote 1
Estate tax calculator

Designate account beneficiaries

Naming beneficiaries for your bank and investment accounts is a simple way to help ensure that your property is passed to the people you intend in the event of your death. Use your financial institution's official designation form, then sign and return it for the designations to take effect.
Take action:
Visit the Forms Library to download Merrill Edge beneficiary forms
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Footnote 1 Neither Merrill Lynch nor any of its affiliates or financial advisors provide legal, tax or accounting advice. You should consult your legal and/or tax advisors before making any financial decisions.

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