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Protect yourself and your loved ones by making a will

Did you know that only 32% of Americans have a will even though 56% believe that it’s important? August is National Make a Will Month and is a reminder to to take care of this imperative task for you and your loved ones’ protection. Many of us put off making a will because we think it’s daunting, but if you take small steps toward creating a plan, you might see that it isn’t so overwhelming.

You may also think that making a will is only for the elderly, but if something were to happen to you today, would you want the state to make important decisions about your possessions and loved ones? Without a will, rulings such as who receives your assets and how your property will be divided up will be decided by the state of Maryland, explained here: Care for minor children and pets will be left up to a court, which could be heart wrenching for those left behind. The point is — these significant decisions may or may not be what you hoped for or intended.

Creating a will, a legally binding document that distributes your assets and assigns heirs and guardians after your death, cannot only save your loved ones time, stress and money, but also can specify how to support your favorite causes. Not many of us want to think about dying but it’s important to make sure that you provide for the people and the causes you care about after you are gone.

with professional advisers when planning your estate. These advisers, such as an estate planning attorney or a financial adviser, will understand your unique financial position and specific state requirements. It’s almost impossible to think of all the circumstances that could have legal impact on your choices and these professionals can help.

Making a will is the first step in creating an estate plan, which is more comprehensive than a will. An estate plan is composed of a will and a living will (an advanced directive) and identifies the people you want to benefit from your assets. It also determines the people you trust to take care of you and your assets if you are unable to do so. A trust, a legal entity you establish to hold, safeguard, control and distribute your assets, can also be part of an estate plan.

Where do you start? Before you meet with your professional advisers, simply begin thinking about your values, where you spend your time, what organizations or causes you are supporting, what your dreams are for the greater world and how you would like to be remembered. Think about what or who brings you the most joy now. Start brainstorming and see if you see any patterns. From there, take an inventory of what you own, your accounts, IRAs, insurance policies, personal property as well as digital access and passwords. You also will need to consider who you will name as your agents (personal representative, trustees, power of attorney, health care proxy, etc.).

For many, an estate plan is a final statement about what was important to them in their lives, an opportunity to make sure their wishes are realized and that they continue to champion the organizations they cared about most. The Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County can work in tandem with your professional advisers to ensure that the causes you are passionate about are taken care of and help you decide how best to distribute your financial support to those causes. With thoughtful planning, you can enjoy retirement, provide for your loved ones and leave a portion, or even the remainder of your estate to charity. You might want to include family members in these charitable discussions and consider developing a family mission statement or vision for charitable giving together. Many families find doing this to be a very meaningful experience.

CFAAC offers a guide that can help you begin to think about your estate planning. Call our director of gift planning, John Rodenhausen, at 410-280-1102 ext. 103 or email him at for more information.

The Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County is celebrating 25 years as a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3), publicly supported philanthropic organization with the long-term goal of building permanent funds that provide support to local nonprofit organizations through grants and special projects. Our mission is to inspire and promote giving in Anne Arundel County by connecting people who care with causes that matter. Established in 1998, CFAAC is one of the largest funders of nonprofit organizations in Anne Arundel County. CFAAC distributes $4 million to $6 million annually.

This story was originally printed in the August 12, 2023 edition of the CAPITAL GAZETTE.


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