While thinking about death is uncomfortable, there are many good reasons to start thinking about putting a plan in place for the unexpected. Creating a will can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Let’s take you through some common questions and answers to get your planning started.
Wills are important for everyone
At the minimum, have a healthcare directive sharing your treatment preferences in extreme medical situations when you can’t communicate. A will also allows you to avoid future family feuds by deciding how family heirlooms get distributed. A will puts your assets in black and white so there is no room for the court to interpret them and make important decisions on your behalf.
Put someone in charge
A will needs to name a person who will be in charge of your money and decisions after you’re gone (the executor). In the absence of a will, the court will appoint the executor for you, who may or may not be a trusted family member. This person will make key decisions on your behalf, so before deciding whom this will be, you should first understand what they do. Just to name a few, an executor is responsible for:
- Setting up a bank account for the estate for incoming funds and to pay ongoing bills (paychecks, mortgage, utilities, funeral arrangements, taxes, etc.)
- Notification of death to banks, credit agencies, lenders, and government agencies
- Protection and upkeep of personal property until its distribution
- Distribution of assets according to the will, then disposing of any personal effects remaining after distribution to heirs
Start by writing down how you would like things to look after your death, starting with:
- Who can care for your children?
- Who inherits your assets
- How will your financial obligations be met?
Find help with creating a will
You can turn to an estate planning attorney in your local area who is familiar with your state laws, or use an online option. However, not all web-based alternatives will necessarily reflect the specifics of your state’s law. Do-it-yourself wills are becoming increasingly popular and typically cost less than $100 through trusted sites like Legal Zoom, Nolo, or Rocket Lawyer. Whether you used a DIY service or a legal professional to draw up your wills, you’ll want to reach out to them for any amendments. It’s best to update your wills every two years—or in the event of any significant life changes (such as marriage, divorce, out-of-state move, or having children).
The Bottom Line
At a time when your family is grieving your loss, having a will in place will make the management of your assets clear for everyone involved—without the stress (and expense) of fighting in court. Putting a will in place will give you comfort knowing that those you care about will be able to focus on carrying out your legacy.
This article has been provided to you for informational purposes only and should not be considered a recommendation of any product or service for which you should consult your qualified professional.
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