The fear of dying, thanatophobia or necrophobia, is ranked number 6 according to the Self Help Collective. While most people are not looking forward to their own deaths, most of us should not be paralyzed with fear in preparing for it. Based on our track-record, however, it would seem something is holding us back from facing the practical steps that should be taken. A 2015 Rocket Lawyer survey (conducted by Harris Poll) showed that 64% of Americans do not have a will, with 15% saying that they do not need one at all. Even if you are not a billionaire with many assets, preparing a will can help avoid confusion upon your death.
DO I NEED A WILL?
A will helps to give voice to your wishes and instructions about what should happen to property after your death. A will allows you to name an executor(s) for your estate. This can help to give you peace of mind and alleviate some of the fear of death knowing that your loved ones would be taken care of the way that you would want them to be taken care of. It can also avoid fighting between loved ones as to who is in charge or who would receive which asset.
For parents, having the voice to name guardians for your children is another extremely important reason to create a will.
Different from what happens to your estate or your children is what happens to you. Living wills are medical directives sharing the type of medical care you would wish to receive if you are unable to communicate that for yourself. Similarly, adults can appoint someone to be their healthcare power of attorney, or the person who would make healthcare decisions if you are not able to do so.
WHAT HAPPENS WITHOUT A WILL?
Essentially, without a will, all control of your inheritance is given to the state where you live. Laws vary from state to state, but generally favor your spouse and children. If not married, your inheritance is given to a relative. This could leave long time partners, friends, or charities with nothing, even if that is what you may have intended.
With no executor named, an administrator is appointed by the courts. This person will likely be a stranger to the family and is able to make decisions that would not necessarily agree with your wishes. With no will in place, courts are charged to appoint guardians for children. The entire process is quite expensive and slow as the estate enters into probate court, or the process of transferring your property to the recipients.
HOW TO MAKE A WILL?
Many people do not know where to begin in terms of creating a will. Online wills and estate planning softwares are easy first steps. It is also possible to write your own will using writing guides.
While you are not required to hire a lawyer to prepare a will, they can help to make sure your will legally pass muster. Even if you begin the process yourself or utilize the kits, have these checked by an attorney. Simple mistakes, such as the number of witness signatures or ensuring that any recipients are not also witnesses, can be avoided by a quick consultation with a lawyer. After coming this far with the will process, it is important to avoid any mistakes that would invalidate your will.