I don’t have enough money to worry about a will
Having recently experienced the loss of my father (age 53), I can give some very practical reasons why you need a will at any age and only a few of them are financial. In my father’s case there were not a lot of assets so I assume he did not see the need to have a will or perhaps he thought he would get around to one when his finances stabilized.
What I wish my father would have known is that not having a will creates chaos for the family when trying to make these difficult decisions.
My older sister is next of kin. Regardless of anyone’s opinion she gets the final say based on my father passing away in estate (without a will) . We’re fortunate in that my sister is incredibly mature and responsible, but what if she weren’t? What if she were too emotional to handle all of these decisions? What if the three of us didn’t get a long and fought over every detail?
A will is not just about where the money goes or who gets the car, (although that information is helpful), it’s about who makes decisions, whether you would like to be buried or cremated, where you want your plot to be or your ashes spread, what items you would like to see saved and what things are acceptable to toss. Not everyone enjoys thinking about what will happen when they pass away. Who would? Simply because it’s uncomfortable does not mean it should be avoided.
While my siblings and I are doing the best we can in making decisions about our father’s resting place and memorial, it would have been peaceful to know what he would want rather than trying to guess. I also would have loved to connect with him in this final way.
What should be included in your will
When you’re thinking about what to put into your will it can seem overwhelming – where do you start?
An easy place to go first is to include a name, date, address etc. and a note indicating this is your last will (and if this is an update that it will override any previous wills). The next piece of information should include who will be the executor of the estate. It seems in many cases this is a family member but it’s not required to be. A lawyer can be an executor, a close family friend, a caretaker etc. An executor is simply the person who makes sure every request of the will is carried out and handled properly. If this person is not willingly taking care of the estate (s)he will probably need to be compensated from the estate.
Other things to include in a will:
- If you’re a parent: who the caretakers for your children will be (provide at least two)
- A request to pay funeral expenses, debts and taxes from the estate before dividing it
- A division of assets (Be sure to include property as well as liquid assets, houses, cars, record collections etc).
- Preference for cremation or burial
- Optional memorial requests: preferred music, church, speaker, scripture, cause to donate to in lieu of flowers etc. None of these things are necessary but I can say from experience anything in this category is helpful.
The most important part is to have two witnesses sign the document and then have it notarized from a local notary, whether at a bank, library or other establishment where notarizing is available (usually at minimal to no cost).
Where do you go to get a will?
This is the easy part. Creating your will has very little cost and can be done mostly online or by stopping by an office supply store. Somewhere like Office Depot or an online source will have fill-in-the-blank Last Will and Testament forms that are easily filled in and taken to witnesses and a notary (here’s an example: Adams Last Will & Testament Form, 8.5 x 11 Inch, White (LF235)). This will work well for those of us who have only a few assets. The next step up would be an online process such as LegalZoom.com where you can spend roughly $70-$100 to get a will with some legal guidance. If you own many different types of assets, particularly property, it’s advisable to speak with a lawyer in person and go through a formal process.
It’s important to remember that a will is not going to keep itself up to date. Particularly in your 20s and 30s when life seems to change rapidly, it’s good to revisit what’s included in your will and update as necessary.
Finally after your will is established make multiple copies and place them in different spots around your home. If possible put one in a fire-proof box or in a safety deposit box at your bank. A will is only as useful as it is readable, so make sure you make its existence known and tell your loved ones where it’s kept.
Do you have a will? What inspired you to create one?