August is National “Make a Will” Month!

Estate planning tips for the seasons ahead.

August is typically the month we think of as the end of summer: back to school, freshman move-in days, last vacations. Looking ahead and planning for the next season is a reminder to update your estate plan or create a will if you don’t have one already. A will is an important estate document that can make the difference between a smooth transfer of assets and a probate nightmare. No matter the size of your estate, having a will gives your family more guidance after you pass. Surprisingly, only 42% of Americans actually have estate planning documents such as a will or a living trust. For those with children under the age of 18, only 36% have an end-of-life plan in place. Finding resources to assist you is a very personal choice. Referrals from trusted friends or financial advisors, online resources, or your state bar association are a few of the ways you can locate an attorney to meet your needs.

However, estate plans are not meant to be signed and forgotten. They occasionally need to be reviewed and possibly amended. Significant change in net worth, changing tax laws, advancing years, catastrophic illness, death of a spouse, divorce or remarriage should trigger a review of your estate plan.

Other Considerations

Having a will in place is just one part of a comprehensive estate plan. Take the time to review your beneficiary designations on life insurance policies, retirement plans, annuities, brokerage accounts, even your bank accounts. Naming your favorite charity as a primary or contingent beneficiary of your accounts may enable you to make a larger gift than anticipated because income and estate taxes may not apply when assets are given to a charity through a beneficiary designation.

The Duke 100 Challenge

Another effective way to increase your gift is with the Duke 100 Challenge. As of April 1, 2023, up to 10% of a new planned gift established in your estate or retirement plan can be matched with current-use funds for your chosen area of support. Learn more about how you can participate and unlock your matching gift today!

Having an estate plan ensures your assets get to the people and places most important to you. Whether through a will, a trust, or beneficiary designation, your gift can make a lasting impact at Duke. For more information about ways to include Duke in your long-term plans, contact the Office of Gift Planning at (919) 681-0464 or Our charitable planning professionals are available to work with you and your advisors.

This information is provided with the understanding that neither Duke University nor the authors are providing legal, accounting, or other professional advice or counsel. Please consult your personal counsel about the financial, tax, and legal implications of any gift.

TAGS: Charitable Giving Strategies Estate planning Creating a will Charitable bequest

About the author

Karen Smedley

Karen is assistant director of the trust and estate administration for Duke University. She has extensive expertise in managing all classes of death claims including estates, trusts, IRA beneficiary claims, and brokerage accounts. Smedley is the founder and facilitator of RIFT advocates. She earned her master of studies in law from Wake Forest University School of Law with an emphasis on business law and compliance and a B.A. in public administration from the University of Texas at Arlington.