couple looking at documents

A few months ago my great grandma passed away from failing health due to her age. Before her funeral, my grandpa and his siblings gathered together and read my great grandma’s will. Because she had a will, her final wishes could be honored. I was able to read my great grandma’s will after everything was divided, and while it wasn’t a long document, I noticed that she had thought a lot about the people she had left behind. She thanked all of us who helped her at one time or another. She gave her home to a cousin of mine who had lived with and taken care of her for the last twenty years. The china and precious figurines that my great grandma had collected over the years were given to her two daughters. Her boys received pictures and handled the money. And she wrote about how she wanted her services to be done. My great grandma loved the color pink, and she said that she wanted to be buried in a pink casket with pink flowers. On the day we buried her, there was pink everywhere I looked.

While it isn’t the most pleasant task, writing a will is important.  Your will is a legal document where you state who you want to manage your estate and distribute your assets, and how you want those assets dispersed. You’re essentially planning for those you are leaving behind, and it’s important to ensure your loved ones are given the information and legal rights to act in your stead. Here are a few important questions to consider:

What are your assets?

Create a list of assets you have, including cash, investments, vehicles, homes and any other personal items of value.

Who will you appoint as your executor?

Your executor is the person named in your will that will manage your estate. Sometimes this is your attorney or a beneficiary (someone who is to inherit part of your estate).

Do you need to appoint guardians?

If you have a child under 18 or care for someone who is disabled, someone must be named who will be responsible for your children.

Are there inheritance tax issues?

Inheritance taxes are important to be aware of because they affect those who you leave your estate to. Help minimize the amount of inheritance tax that will have to be paid on your death and organize your finances and will accordingly.

Do you want or need to create a trust?

Usually a trust is set up if you have a child under 18 or a disabled beneficiary. A trust is an arrangement set up where your money, property, or other assets are held and managed by the appointed trustees on behalf of the named beneficiaries.

How do you want your assets divided?

Once you’ve listed your assets, choose which beneficiaries will receive what. While it can be difficult to decide, and you may worry about hurting feelings, it’s important to make these things clear so those you’re leaving behind don’t argue about your belongings.

How will your estate take care of any financial obligations?

There are often debts and other financial obligations you’ll be leaving behind. Write out a list of things like mortgages, funeral expenses, or car payments and where you would like the money to come from to pay them off.

 

Once you have the answers to these questions, contact an attorney to begin the process of writing your own will. Just as my great grandmother’s will ensured her wishes were honored and her loved ones were taken care of, having a will can do the same for you. And knowing your affairs are in order will lift a large burden from you, as well as your loved ones.