It's a topic most people don't want to discuss, but should. It's called a will. It can feel complicated, emotional, and it requires some hard decisions what happens to your assets when you pass away.
How soon should you undertake that unpleasant task? Alas, it's not a topic just for older people. Younger people shouldn't put it off just because of traditional convention. That's especially true for those with children, assets, businesses or partners in a personal relationship.
Why you should create a will
Everyone should create a will. The chances are good that one of these situations applies to you:
You're in or entering the military
If you are entering the military, that's a good time to establish your will to ensure that all of your affairs are in order to protect you and your family. It's also a good time to establish other estate-planning documents, such as powers of attorney and health care directives. If you are married or have children, a will ensures that there are clear instructions in the event of your passing.
You have financial assets and/or a business
If you have an inheritance or any other financial assets, you must have a will to establish how the money and your interest in your business are distributed. Without it, your family or partners may be left struggling over your assets and fighting with red tape to receive what you intended for them. Without a will, your family will have to take your estate through the courts in a process called "probate."
You have a pet or other animals
Wills protect all family members, including your furry friends, and they also would need protection. Creating a will helps ensure that your pet is in good hands by establishing its new guardian. It can also ensure that some of your assets are used to preserve your pet's quality of life.
You have an online presence
If you were to pass away unexpectedly, what happens to your social media accounts? Establishing a will can help you instruct your family on how to manage them. Do you want to retain your Facebook page as a memorial or shut it down? Would you like your financial, social and cloud accounts to be disposed of or preserved for your beneficiaries?
You'd like to donate a portion of your assets
If you'd like to give money to friends or charities, it's important that you outline that in your will. Otherwise, laws can restrict who receives assets.
You want to be specific about your health care
What would you like to happen if you are in a coma or vegetative state? What about if you are terminally ill and can no longer communicate? By writing a will, you can prevent you and your family from having to face those questions.
You are in a committed relationship, but not legally married
If your relationship is not legally recognized, your partner may have no right to any of your assets, even those you share. Protecting your partner with a will can help you preserve his or her quality of life and standard of living after you are gone.
What to cover in your will
Creating a will is only as helpful as what you include in it. Include the following to ensure that your posthumous wishes are preserved:
- Guardianship - If you are a parent, include guardianship specifics to ensure your children are taken care of.
- Assets - Include all the details about your financial and physical assets and their intended dispersal.
- Real property - That's land you own along with the permanent attachments on it, such as houses, garages and other buildings.
- Executor - Designate an executor to carry out your wishes.
- Beneficiaries - Name all beneficiaries who will receive your assets and property.
The typical cost of a will
The cost of a will depends on its complexity. You can create a simple will for yourself for a small amount of cash by using an online template from sites such as LegalZoom, RocketLawyer or Five Wishes.
For those looking for more complex wills, the costs can range into the thousands and include trusts, advanced directives, powers of attorney and more.
A will is more than a simple distribution of assets. It is a full accounting of how you'd like your finances, online accounts, children, pets, businesses, investments, assets and property handled after your passing. A will is an important means by which to ensure that your affairs are in order, no matter what your age. If you don’t have a will or haven’t even considered it, it is time to do so today.