Many parents set up a will after a child is born. This makes sense: they want to clearly spell out who will take care of their kids if something happens to them. But for many people who are child-free, making a will isn’t a priority. This doesn’t make sense: having a last will and testament (and proper estate plan) is crucial for everyone.
It allows you to do two simple but important things after you die: control who gets your assets, and ensure your wishes are honored.
Controlling Who Gets Your Assets
If you don’t have a last will and testament, a court will give your assets to your next of kin. This means that everything you own will probably go to your parents or siblings. If there’s a family feud, a sibling rivalry or if you would prefer to give more money to certain family members who are not as well off as others, a will is particularly important.
When writing a will, you can decide to give something to special friends or your favorite charities. You can even set money aside to take care of beloved pets, and decide who will become guardians of those pets when you’re gone.
A last will and testament allows you to make sure you acknowledge everyone who matters to you. It enables you to choose an executor who will respectfully and professionally handle your estate. It also helps you minimize taxes that could potentially reduce the value of your estate.
Ensuring Your Wishes Are Honored
If you don’t have significant assets, you might think it isn’t important to decide where your money will go. But making a will allows you to have control over things that probably are important to you. For example, in a will, you can indicate whether you want to be cremated or buried. You can even specify where you would like to be buried or where you want your ashes spread.
Another important part of estate planning is creating plans for special circumstances, such as who will take care of you if you become ill, or if you become incapable of making your own decisions. If you don’t have children to make those decisions for you, you’ll need to find a trusted friend or family member to do so. A durable power of attorney document will allow them to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf. A good estate plan will also include a detailed living will, and clearly spell out who has control over things like personal care choices and medical decisions, in the event you’re unable to make them.
Making a will also encourages you to speak to the people who will be assisting with your estate. If you know ahead of time who will be taking on various roles, you can tell them about your wishes now, and address any questions they might have. Once you set up your will, make sure your executor knows where the documents are.
How to Write a Will
It’s best to hire a lawyer to create an estate plan (though admittedly, it can be costly). A lawyer will be thorough, and will make sure you’ve thought through all possible scenarios and have a solid living will or last will and testament in place.
You can plan your estate yourself by purchasing do-it-yourself documents. However, make sure these documents are created for your state or province to ensure they’re legally binding, and that they cover all current laws and regulations. Even if they are tailored to your location, they could potentially create legal challenges to your will, especially if you have a complex estate.
Making a will isn’t a pleasant task. But it’s important to think about. It will give you peace of mind knowing you’ve properly planned out your estate.