Although most people prefer not to think about it, the fact is we are all going to die. Hopefully a long time from now, of course. But if you own real estate and/or have other assets it’s wise to create a will and figure out what is going to happen to your estate when you’re gone while you are still healthy and capable. Waiting until you’re very old or until you are sick makes the whole process much more difficult — for you and for your family.
There’s a misconception that a will is only for people who have a great deal of assets and wealth. In fact, you might think to yourself, “I don’t have that much. As far as my house goes, my adult kids can do with it what they wish” or “I trust my sister to take care of my minor children.” If only things were that easy.
Once you are gone no one can ask you what your wishes are. No one can make sure that those wishes are carried out. And if there is disagreement between your family members about what to do or who should get what, that can cause a lot of pain during what is already a painful time. You owe it to yourself and your kin to start planning now.
If you watch soap operas you might be familiar with a will playing a major role, often providing a big reveal (“Jessica’s been written out of her father’s will because he apparently knew about her affair with Randall!”). But the main point of a will is to decide how your estate will be distributed (in other words, what happens to and who gets your stuff). If you have no will then your property will likely be distributed according to the laws of the state you live in. If you’re cool with that (and you should probably look into what those laws are before you decide you are) then there’s nothing you need to do.
Unless you have children. A will can direct who will become guardians of your minor children after you die. While you might trust your sister Claudia to take your children in and care for them, the court may have other ideas. Obviously no one who has minor children wants to think about dying before their children are adults. However, that’s not in your control. With a will, who will care for your children should the unthinkable happen is. The same is true for pets. You can make sure your cat Stormy has a home after you’re gone.
You might be tempted to put off a will because of cost or hassle or any other excuse. Well, you’re not alone. According to Business Insider, about 60% of Americans haven’t gotten one together yet. But you can create a will for $20-$50 with entities like Rocket Lawyer and LegalZoom relatively quickly. So if cost and time are your major roadblocks, consider them blasted through.
Having a will can make a huge difference for your family. Making huge financial decisions while they’re grieving your loss is difficult to say the least. Think of it as one last way to show them you care.