We all know that it is important to have a Last Will and Testament created - in fact, it is one of the most important things one can do for you and your family. But why is it so important? And when should we make one?
Putting together a will can be difficult and unpleasant, many people don’t like thinking about their own mortality and what will happen when they are gone. In fact, according to a recent survey by Caring.com, less than 25% of Americans have a will. Leaving your family without a will can make it challenging to fulfill your final wishes. In this blog, we will go over some of the important reasons one should create this legal document.
1. Choose Who Will Take Care of your Children (if they are minors). Obviously, if you have younger children, this designation in your will is crucial. Here you will choose who you’d like to take guardianship of your children if you pass away before they turn 18. This is something that no one would like to think about - leaving your children behind. If your will isn’t completed, a court will make this decision, meaning someone you did not choose could be raising your children.
2. Choose Who Will Get Your Assets. You’ve worked your whole life to provide for your family; it’s important that they are taken care of when you pass away. By stating who gets what and how things are divided, you can insure your last wishes are carried out. By taking care of your division of assets, you can hopefully avoid any nasty arguments amongst family that sometimes occur when money is involved. Without a will, and depending on your state, the court will distribute your assets.
In thinking of your assets, it’s not just money and houses. Your assets also include your personal items. In thinking of your personal items and those that hold significance to you, in your will you’d get to choose who gets what, maybe even leaving behind a message to discuss your choice. For instance, maybe you purchased a painting while on vacation with your brother; you can make sure he gets it in the event of your passing. You can also use this aspect of the will to potentially squash future arguments. If you knew both of your daughters wanted a particular necklace, you can state who gets it or even pick a third party to avoid disagreements.
3. Choose Who Will be the Personal Representative of Your Estate. Choosing a personal representative (the person or institution that will carry out your final wishes by managing your estate), is one of the most important decisions to make. They will be in charge of many responsibilities after your passing including:
- Using money from your estate or trust to take care of unpaid bills
- Filing Court Papers
- Taking Inventory of everything in your estate
- Distributing your assets in accordance with the will
It is important to choose an individual that is trustworthy. Also keep in mind, the person who is the best choice today, may not be the wisest one tomorrow, and that is okay, for you are able to amend your will at any time.
4. Choose what Gifts and Donations to be Made. If you’d like to leave behind a donation to a charity or foundation that is close to your heart, it is in the will that you designate this. It is through here that your legacy will live on. Not only is this a wonderful way to reflect upon what is important to you, it also will impact your beneficiaries. Gifts up to $15,000 are excluded from Estate Tax, increasing the value of your estate for your heirs to inherit.
With life being so unpredictable, there really is no better time to start thinking of planning your will than today. And remember, you can always go back and make alterations at any time, so if things change in your life, your final wishes can also be adapted to reflect that. Obviously, as you go through life, one experiences changes - deaths, and births, divorces and marriages, so it is important to keep your will updated.
We know it’s tough to think about death, but by starting to plan for that today, can bring some peace of mind to your life. If you have any questions or need additional guidance, feel free to reach out to us at (781) 595-1492.