Not many topics of discussion can cause discomfort as quickly as talking about your own death. It certainly is not good conversation at a party or other social setting. However, all adults need to act like adults and take care of these things. It’s important to make a plan for what will happen to your assets and your little children if you have them when you die.
For most people, the process is easier than you might think. A little effort now into making a plan for your estate can prevent many of the issues that can create unnecessary burdens and stress on your family who would already be grieving losing you.
To get the process started, think about your family, your friends, your church or whomever depends on you now. How will they make out financially if you die? Will they need or want any assets you might have? Will the bills you leave behind, such as funeral expenses and other debts, be able to be paid?
Your Last Will is the document that tells the court after your death how you want your assets distributed. If you die without one, these decisions will be made by the court through what the legal field calls “intestacy.” Each state has laws that govern the specific rules of distribution usually based on descendents. The courts will have to appoint an administrator for your estate (another expense sometimes).
So it’s better to make these distribution decisions yourself by executing a valid legal Last Will and Testament. You can visit a local attorney or use a state-specific Last Will to express your final wishes at a more affordable price.
What is a Last Will?
In basic terms, a Last Will is a legal document that lets you ensure your final wishes are carried out. With a validly executed Will, you can direct how to distribute your property, both personal and real, money and specific items to be given to particular people. It also allows you to select who will be in charge of your estate. This person would be your personal representative after your death. He or she will take charge of the estate, wind it up and distribute assets according to your stated wishes. This will become known as the Executor or Executrix. The Last Will also allows you to select who would become Guardians of any minor children left behind.
It is a good idea to discuss your choices for executor and guardian with those individuals to avoid any surprises or issues later. They should understand the importance of their roles and be willing to serve. Remind them though that they can get help from qualified professionals such as attorneys and accountants when the time comes.
Your beneficiaries are usually your family, friends and also can be charitable organizations. Keep in mind that any property that clearly is jointly owned with you would pass automatically to the other owner when you die. That asset would not become part of your estate.
Your Last Will may have some exclusions in it that you need to take into account. Some Wills provide that proceed payments from retirement or life insurance plans that were active when you died, will go to the beneficiary or beneficiaries you designated with those providers prior to your death. Those plans are contracts so the companies who issued them are contractually obligated to pay those beneficiaries. Those proceeds will not be part of your estate either so that may affect the distribution plan you make to the beneficiaries under your Last Will.
Take your time making your end of life Plan but do not put it off too long. If you already had a Will at some point, you may want to pull it out and see if it needs updating.
Planning now may not be fun and may make your family uncomfortable but it can keep the peace later and give you peace of mind now.