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Wills & Bequests
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Planned Giving Resources
The American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter recommends you work with a estate planning professional who can guide you through the estate and gift planning process. 

To include a gift to the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter in your will or trust, please designate a specific amount or percentage to the American Red Cross Bay Area (click here for Sample Bequest Language for a Will or Trust). Your gift will be used to prepare for, prevent and respond to disasters and emergencies in the Bay Area.
 
How to Create Your Will
A will or a living trust should be drafted by an attorney knowledgeable in estate planning and the laws of the state in which you reside. Attorneys do charge for their services, but a properly drafted will can save your heirs time, taxes, unnecessary fees and possible heartache.
 
You should prepare for your meeting with your attorney. Draft a list of all your assets, including bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement and insurance plans, real estate and valuables. You should also make a list of the people and charities that you would like these assets to go to after your lifetime.
 
How to Update Your Will
If you already have a will, but your circumstances have changed—births, deaths, new or lost friendships, changes in the law or your desire to add a charity as a beneficiary of your estate—then you need to update your will. Some people think you can write in your own changes on your current will. This is risky and may invite a will contest and costly litigation for your heirs. See your attorney for assistance.
 
What Is a Codicil?
A codicil is an amendment to your will which can add to, take from or alter the terms of your will. It is a legal document and must be signed with the same formalities as a will, including the required number of witnesses. Unless the changes you want to make are lengthy or complicated, a codicil is significantly less costly than drafting a new will. Also, your attorney may be aware of a particular provision in your old will that has an advantage protected by law which would be lost if you executed a new will.
 
Caution: Clearly a new will is preferable when you want to make numerous changes, and a new will does avoid confusion. If you do create a new will, have your attorney keep the originals of all old, out-of-date wills to be sure they remain secure.
 
Advantages of a Codicil
A codicil makes sense for a simple change, such as the addition of a charitable bequest. In some cases, speed in preparation and execution may be important and a codicil usually is quicker to prepare than a new will.
 
If you worry about anyone questioning your capacity to make a new will, a codicil is advantageous. If someone later claims that you were incompetent and the codicil is not admitted to probate, your original will is still valid. To ensure that changes in your will by codicil will have the intended legal effect, be sure to consult your attorney.
 
Before providing a gift for the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter in your will, we recommend that you consult your tax advisor or attorney for full advice on the effect of your gift.
 
For more information, please contact our planned giving team at (415) 427-8989 or ruettingerw@usa.redcross.org.
 

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