We all have a list of things we know that we should do but haven’t gotten around to doing. And, for quite some time, making a will was at the top of my list.
It’s a cold truth: you will die.
And while it’s difficult to acknowledge that eventually, I will die, I think it’s also important to acknowledge that I’ve worked hard in my life to be fair to others and to prepare myself and those around me for unfortunate situations. My eventual death is one of these instances.
I’m married, and for us it seemed that not only was it difficult to talk about writing the will, but after we decided it was something that we needed to do, it was just as difficult to find the will to find a lawyer and write it.
Let’s be real, we’re in the prime of our lives.
No one wants to talk about dying.
Things are going pretty well and we have a lot to live for.
Still, if there’s one thing I’m pretty good at in this marriage, it’s being a buzz kill. And, I insisted on sitting down with a lawyer and making a will. By tackling this daunting and emotional task, we’ve acknowledged one simple truth: we will not live forever, and when we die our son will be taken care of. Most people are aware that they should have a will, but because of the gravity of the task, many people never actually get around to writing one. If you haven’t sat down to write your will yet, I want to give you 7 reasons why you should get started on making a will. Of course, I would love your feedback in the comments below.
7 Reasons Why You Need To Write Your Will
1. It’s a nice thing to do. Writing a will allows your loved ones to focus on their grief and mourn your loss. If you die without a will, your family will have to deal with a lot more than funeral decisions. If you die without a last will this is known as dying “intestate”. Depending upon what state you lived in before your death, the state will most probably decide how your property is distributed. In community property states, this means that your community property will be given to your spouse. This includes any bank accounts, securities, real estate, and other assets you own at the time of death. In my opinion, no matter how much you think you do or don’t have, you’ve worked too hard for someone you don’t know to make your decisions after your death.
2. Having a will helps the people you love make difficult decisions during a difficult time. When you pass away, chances are high that the people who loved you the most ware going to be very distraught. Even if they are prepared for your passing, they will still be very sad. Having a will ensures that your last wishes are carried out. Cremation. Burial. Do you want a certain song played at the service? The only way to ensure that your wishes are carried out is to write a will and keep it up-to-date. One of my favorite Mitch Albom books, Have A Little Faith tells the story of a request from Albom’s 82 year old rabbi, who asks him to deliver his eulogy. It’s an interesting story about managing the end, and remembrance. But the rabbi’s dedication to ensuring that his last wishes are managed and executed is heartwarming too.
3. You decide where your kids will go. This one is tough to discuss, but it’s important to note. In your will you can designate a guardian for your child(ren). As the parent of a teen this was important for two reasons: first, I wanted to be certain to dictate who would care for my son if something happens to myself or my husband. Having a will is also important because it allowed us to designate a property guardian and name a trustee to manage our money for Bobby until he reaches adulthood. During the process you can determine what age you feel is appropriate. Realizing that the death of two parents is a heavy burden for anyone to bear, I feel a tremendous sense of relief that someone is also appointed to help him manage our estate/affairs following our deaths–even if we pass away after he is a legal adult.
4. Any drama surrounding your death is minimized. Let’s face it: death is emotional. And while it’s not always polite to acknowledge it, sometimes deaths bring out the worst in our families. With a proper document in place, your assets are directed to the appropriate place. By having the proper documents in place you can also stop people from assuming guardianship of your children or your assets or settle any sentimental disputes that may arise over much-loved family heirloom items.
5. Reduce the tax burden on your heirs. Two things are certain: death and taxes. If you die without a will, your family could face a larger inheritance tax. Don’t do this to them.
6. You have the internet. Do it yourself if you don’t want to pay a lawyer. For most estates, putting together a will is relatively simple. There are many websites that offer low-cost software options and can help you create a simple, valid will in less than 30 minutes. Because will are generally not too complicated, and very necessary (did you read 1-5?) it’s worth the small investment of time to visit a lawyer and have one drawn up. Many companies also offer this service as part of your compensation and benefits package. Check with your human resources to see if this service is one that is provided free of charge. If so, it’s worth taking advantage of!
7. You can support your favorite charity one last time. It goes without saying that I support non-profits and charities to the very end.
If you’re philanthropic, consider leaving some of your estate to a college or university in the form of a scholarship, or a non-profit that you were passionate about. If you would like part of your estate support a charity or nonprofit organization, you can specifically direct your wishes in your will.
After watching my dad become unexpectedly hospitalized, I have come to the reality that tomorrow is not promised. Even if you experience an emergency, having a will in place before you experience an unexpected disability or death is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family. Being prepared will legally protect you and your family, and ensure that your wishes are honored. Make some time between now and the end of the year and get started on making your will!