It may not be the most pleasant task to consider, but it is always an important one. A will can mean the difference between whether or not your loved ones will receive any of your money, valuables, or other possessions after you die. Long life is never guaranteed, and it is your job to make sure your loved ones can tend to your funerary expenses. It is also your way of giving a final gift to them.
What is a Will?
A will, or a last will and testament, is a document that legally sets in writing your wishes after you die, which includes funeral proceedings, monetary benefits, and material possessions. A will can prevent family squabbles by setting all of your wishes out forthright, instead of letting loved ones potentially fight over your memory.
A will can also mean you can continue any charitable giving that you began when you were alive and wish to continue. Keep in mind, though, that a will does not include life insurance, retirement benefits, or any other financial accounts that were otherwise designated when you were alive.
There are a few main types of wills:
Living Will – This details what you want should you become incapacitated.
Oral Will – This is dictated by you before a witness. This type of will is not always recognized legally.
Holographic Will – This is written by you without a legal witness. This is another type that does not hold much sway legally.
Self-proving (Testimony) Will – This is the formal document, witnessed by a lawyer, which is most recognizable as a will and will almost always hold up in a court of law as long as it is done by the book. For obvious reasons, this is the preferred type of will.
So, when should you write a will?
When you get married, both partners should address your wills or modify existing wills. You are bound together by law, and likely want to name the other as your beneficiary. Writing a will at this time ensures that your possessions and monetary assets will go to your significant other, so that even if you were the breadwinner, hopefully they can carry on living comfortably without you.
Civil partnership can and should provoke the same urge to create a will. Even if it is symbolic, you are showing your significant other that you care about them enough to ensure that after you die, they will receive something from you. Though it may be morbid, it is another way of showing that you will be there for them forever.
Even if you are only thinking seriously about children, you should also think seriously about writing or amending your will. It is important for your family has a will which lets them know who their guardian will be when you’ve gone. This will most likely be a spouse, but in the event that there is no spouse alive or around, this point becomes even more important.
You will also want your family taken care of financially, and the will becomes your responsibility for making sure that happens. A will helps you set aside a trust fund for your children, so that when you die, they will have a sort of income, however small or large, to keep them secure.
Buying a Home
A home is likely the largest asset many people will purchase. It is important to have it in legally-approved writing who will receive this asset once you pass away. Any major asset should be included in your will, such as a car, a boat, or a mobile home, as long as you own it. Investments should also be included in this section, as that money should be designated as well.
Buying a home represents a change in your financial state. This will affect how much your beneficiaries can receive from you, because it increases your value. It also means you have moved. You should always update your records when you move, and this includes a will, and any other tax- and government-related documents.
Starting a Business
If you have started a business, it is important to state who you will pass it along to once you die. If you did not want to pass this business along, you should then state what you want to do with it – sell it, liquidate it, or something else entirely. If you want one of your children to take over the business, you also get to allocate how and when this will be done.
If you own a business, residents of some areas in the world can set aside money using a corporate will. This corporate will shields the money owned by your business from estate taxes, and it can therefore mean more money for your beneficiaries.
Perhaps you have had some sort of near-death experience, or a friend or family member was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Perhaps someone close to you has passed away before their time. Most people know what this feels like, and therefore you probably know how it feels to be in close proximity to death and that many people are taken from us before they even reach old age.
If you are getting older and have neglected to write a will yet, do not hesitate any longer. A will is not a death sentence. It is a way to ensure that your family and loved ones receive what they need to take care of your funeral expenses and have some sort of living after you die.
A last will and testament is a very important piece of paper which ensures that your estate goes where you want it to and operates the way you want it to. Without this document, you and your family and loved ones have little control over who receives your money and property. Be sure to create a will on or before these life events, so that you can retain control of your estate and your loved ones can thrive.
Updated: March 25, 2014