As you may be well-aware, having a personal will is very important. Not only can it provide closure for your family, but also for yourself - your own peace of mind. But why is it so important? And when should we have one?
Putting together a will can be difficult and unpleasant, many people don’t like thinking about their own passing and what will happen when they are gone. In fact, according to a recent survey by Caring.com, less than 25% of Americans have a will. However, if you leave your family without one, it is even more tricky to try to make sure your final wishes are fulfilled.
1. Choose Who Will Take Care of your Children (if they are minors). This is something that every parent thinks about, “Who will take care of the children if something ever happens to me?” Obviously, if you have younger children, this designation in your will is crucial. In your will you have the chance to legally choose who you’d like to take guardianship of your children if you pass away before they turn 18. If something were to happen to you and your will isn’t completed, a court will make this decision, leaving someone you may not have chosen to raise your children.
2. Choose Who Will Get Your Assets. You’ve worked your whole life to provide for your family; it’s important that they are taken care of when you pass away. By documenting exactly what and how things are divided, you can really ensure your last wishes are carried out. By taking care of your division of assets, you can hopefully avoid any nasty arguments amongst family that tend to occur when money is involved. Without a will, and depending on your state, the courts will distribute your assets.
When you sit down and think about what you leave behind, it’s not just money and houses. Your assets also include your personal items. When you inventory your items, you will get to specify in your will who gets what, maybe even leaving behind a message to discuss your choice. For instance, maybe you purchased beautiful earrings while on vacation with your niece, you can make sure she gets them in the event of your passing. You can also use this aspect of the will to potentially squash future arguments. If you know both of your sons want a particular painting, you can state who gets it or even pick a third party so as to avoid disagreements.
3. Choose Who Will be the Executor of Your Estate. Choosing an executor, the person or institution that will carry out your final wishes by managing your estate, is one of the most important decisions to make. They will be in charge of many responsibilities after your passing including:
- Using money from your estate or trust to take care of unpaid bills
- Filing court papers
- Taking Inventory of everything in your estate
- Distributing your assets in accordance with the will
Choosing an executor is important to ensure that your wishes are honored and it is important to choose an individual that is trustworthy. Also keep in mind, the person who is the best choice today, may not be the wisest one tomorrow, and that is okay, for you are able to amend your will at any time.
4. Choose What Gifts and Donations to be Made. If you’d like to leave behind a donation to a charity or foundation that is close to your heart, it is in your will that you designate this. Not only is this a wonderful way to reflect upon what is important to you, it also will impact your beneficiaries. Gifts up to $13,000 are excluded from Estate Tax, increasing the value of your estate for your heirs to inherit.
With everything in life being so unpredictable, it’s nice to have some peace of mind - there’s no better time to start your will than today. And remember, you can always go back and make alterations at any time, so if things change in your life, your final wishes can also be adapted to reflect that. Obviously, as you go through life, one experiences changes - deaths and births, divorces and marriages, so it is important to keep your will updated.
We know that getting started can be tough. Thinking about our own mortality is something that can be unpleasant to face, but by planning ahead, is a wonderful gift you can provide yourself and your family.