Most people don’t like to consider what happens when they die — but if you want your wishes followed after you pass away, you should have a will. A will provides a foundation for how your belongings will be cared for after you’re gone.
Who Needs a Will?
Basically, anyone who is over 18 and has a partner, children or a positive net worth should have their own will (yes, spouses often have separate wills, even if they look almost identical). A will is particularly important if you have minor children, an array of assets, such as business holdings or a high net worth, or a more complicated line of inheritance (such as children from a previous relationship).
Why Do I Need a Will?
A will serves a variety of purposes — all of them center around giving you control over what happens after death. You can name who will be responsible for certain areas of your estate plan by making a will.
How to Make a Will
An attorney can help you draft a will and identify the documents needed for will preparation. Ask friends and advisors for references or contact the local bar association for a list of attorneys who can assist you. Before you meet with a lawyer, here are a few things to consider when writing a will:
Name a Guardian of Children Under 18
This is may be the most crucial thing your will does. You should carefully consider who you want to care for your children and ensure that the potential guardians are willing to take them in; sit down with the potential guardian ask them and be open to any questions they may have. If you don’t designate a caregiver for your minor children, the courts will have to step in and decide on your behalf.
Create a Trust for Your Minor Children
A Testamentary Trust is often added to a will by parents with minor children to ensure that the assets they pass to their kids are guarded and used for the children’s health, education, living expenses and other support. In their will, parents are able to designate a person or entity they trust to manage their financial assets and look out for the best interests of their minor children. Some families designate the guardian named in their will so they will have access to funds to care for the children, but others name a guardian for their children and another person as oversee of the trust.
Name a Caretaker for Pets
For many people, furry friends are just as much a part of the family as anybody else. You don’t want your beloved pets to be sent to a shelter, so discussing with your family who would take them after your death, and then designating that person in your will, allows you to have peace of mind.
Name an Executor of Your Estate
Your executor is in charge of handling your affairs: paying off debts and taxes, closing accounts, managing your property and possessions. You want to choose someone who is responsible and organized, someone who you know will carry out your wishes. Naming them in your will gives them permission to take care of your affairs in accordance with your wishes.
A will allows you to determine who should receive anything you own that doesn’t have a beneficiary (such as a life insurance policy) or isn’t jointly owned (such as a business). In your will you can give sentimental items to specific people and make the distribution of your assets easier for loved ones. You avoid potential conflicts amongst your loved ones because your will makes it clear what your intentions and desires were. It also allows you to designate charities to receive an end-of-life gift that will continue your legacy.
If you die without making a will, the state will assign an administrator to distribute your assets and make decisions that would have been laid out in a will. This administrator will be tied to the laws of the state, and their decisions may not align with your wishes or your family’s wishes. The cost of this process may also eat away at the inheritance you leave for your loved ones.
When to Update a Will
Once you’ve made a will, you don’t get to check it off your list forever. Most life changes (such as marriages, divorces, moves, large asset sales, deaths, births, etc.) require you to make changes to your will. Even if nothing significant in your life has changed, you should regularly review your will to ensure it matches your wishes.
Where to Store a Will
If you keep your will in a safe-deposit box, ensure that others have access to the safe-deposit box so they can retrieve it without you. Otherwise, you can keep your will in a fireproof and waterproof safe in your home or with someone you trust, such as an attorney — and it doesn’t hurt to have signed copies in multiple places.
We Are Here for You
Farm Bureau is here to help. If you have questions about providing for your beneficiaries through life insurance, talk with an agent.