Life insurance and a will go hand in hand to take care of things after you leave this world. While life insurance provides financial assistance to your loved ones you left behind, a will helps figure out what happens to your tangible items and assets.
It might seem a little silly to care about what happens to your stuff once you pass on, because it is, after all, just stuff. But assets and sentimental items can be cause for serious contention once a loved one has passed on. A will legally binds your wishes to be carried out.
Let’s break it down into a couple of parts:
Financial. Bank accounts, 401Ks and stocks need to be divvied up between the intended recipients. If this money is accounted for by trusts are usually taken care of. Life insurance and retirements accounts almost always require a beneficiary to be named at the time of investment, so those accounts don’t need to be worried about. If you plan on donating money to a specific cause, estate planning with a the charitable organization of your choice is the best way to ensure that your money goes where you want it to.
Money tends to be one of the items family members fight over. Detailing your wishes regarding your finances will keep the squabbling to a minimum.
Stuff. This would include any tangible assets, big and small. The biggest thing people usually leave is a home. Consider who you want to leave the house to, or if you would rather sell it and divide up the money. Cars and other big assets are easy to remember, but the small items matter too. Family members often want sentimental items like photographs, books, etc. Any heirloom items are also big ticket items. Do not just assume that everyone will remember who got what. If you put in writing, there cannot be much dispute about it.
People. A will should also state who will be a guardian if you leave your children behind. This is only applicable if you have children who are 18 years of age or younger. Before establishing a guardian for your children, discuss the options with that person. If you do not establish this relationship before your death, a court will get involved and determine who is suitable. A good rule of thumb is to keep a court of out it.
Executor. Every will needs an executor. This is a person who will make sure the wishes on the will are carried through. This person needs to be honest and firm when dealing with someone else’s estate. You can either choose a loved one or you can choose outside of the family and go with a lawyer. Either way, pick this person ahead of time.
Health wishes. Do you want to be on life support? If not, put that in your will. This will keep your family from having to make that harrowing decision.
So when should you write a will? Now. Every person should have a will, and you can often just write it yourself.