We tend to place seemingly non-urgent tasks on the backburner. Most of us have a lengthy list of undesirable tasks that “collect dust” in the back of our minds. We promise we will organize the garage next month and convince ourselves we will start our diets as soon as the New Year commences. In reality, it often takes us years to complete these less-imperative tasks. We are guilty of reserving them for that ever-ambiguous “not today” when we consider them daunting or unappealing.
According to a 2014 study, almost 64% of Americans don’t have a will. Perhaps this unwillingness to create a plan for our deaths is threefold: thinking about death is unpleasant, we naturally ignore our mortality while going about our day-to-day business, and many of us hold a misconstrued belief that wills are only necessary for the wealthy. However, regardless of our financial or marital status, we all deserve the confidence of knowing all our wishes will be honored once we pass. The only way to ensure this is by preparing a will. Consider the following as you contemplate yours:
- Determine who will raise your minor children
Nobody knows your children better than you; therefore, appointing a loved and trusted individual to care for them is imperative. The only way to appoint a guardian for them if you and your spouse pass is to name them in a will. Without one, a judge who has never met you or your children will decide who will raise them. I know from over thirty years of experience that deciding on a guardian is very difficult and may cause conflict between spouses, but a knowledgeable attorney should be able to help you make this complicated decision.
- Decide how your property will be distributed
Having a will enables you to ensure that your property will be distributed according to your wishes. If you pass away without a will that that specifies how you’d like your property distributed, a judge will decide who receives it; this determination may not only go against your wishes but will cause disputes among your family members. In order to ensure your property ends up with whom you want when you die, it is essential to name your beneficiaries in a will.
- Protect your spouse
Many people believe that if you die, your surviving spouse will gain ownership of all your property; however, this is false. Your spouse will only inherit half of your estate while your children inherit the other half. This will certainly be even more of a burden if your children are minors and your spouse will have to be named trustee by a court. This could amount to a lot of extra stress and cost to your spouse.
- Appoint an executor
An executor handles your remaining financial responsibilities after you pass away. Not having an individual designated to this position in writing means a judge will name someone instead after you die.
- Facilitate the grieving process for your loved ones
Losing a loved one is heartbreaking and financially burdensome. Years-long arguments between family members and lawyers about who will receive your assets can provoke a stressful, costly situation that exacerbates the grieving process and strains relationships. Providing your family with objective, clear-cut instructions on how you’d like your possessions allocated when you pass will lessen confusion as well as prevent intervention from the courts and permanent damage to your family.
Take the first step in eliminating “write a will” from your to-do list by calling your lawyer today.