Your will is the most effective way to make sure that you can determine how, when and to whom your assets will be distributed, name the executor of your estate, and create trusts for the benefit of your spouse, children or others.

You should definitely review your will if you’ve had additions to the family, changed your marital status, moved to another state, if there have been changes in your assets or your health has deteriorated.

The best time to review your will is now. Waiting until you are ill and worried about the future may prevent you from making the best choices for your beneficiaries. Start by updating the lists of assets and documents you used to draft your original will. Don’t overlook your retirement plan benefits and life insurance. Ask yourself if your will reflects the current needs of your beneficiaries.

Consult an attorney who specializes in estate planning who can advise you about revising your will. The cost of having an attorney guide you through the process is small if you consider possible future savings. If you do not know an attorney, your bank’s trust department can recommend one. Minor changes to your will may not require rewriting the document entirely. Many adjustments can be accomplished through a codicil or will supplement.

Gifts by will are an integral part of the American philanthropic tradition. Tax laws encourage giving through tax deductions and estate tax savings. You can continue to contribute meaningfully to organizations you have supported during your lifetime, such as the NYSFoundation, through charitable bequests that can be tailored to meet your specific personal and financial needs. When reviewing your will, also review your charitable bequests to assure that they continue to reflect your present intentions.

There are ways to support the NYSFoundation without changing your will or visiting a lawyer. One option is retirement account funds. By changing the beneficiary designation form available from your plan’s administrator, the remaining balance can be given to the NYSFoundation upon your demise. Your current use of funds will not be altered in any way. Also, life insurance proceeds can be directed to NYSFoundation by simply changing the beneficiary on a form available from the insurance company. If you transfer ownership of the policy to the NYSFoundation, an income-tax deduction is available and any future premiums are deductible as well. Finally, you can also name the NYSFoundation the “payable on death” recipient of your checking, stock or savings account.

(A complete discussion of charitable giving strategies that you might consider when including the NYSFoundation in your estate plans is available from the NYSFoundation upon request)