Topics like life insurance and filing taxes can make the best of us yawn, but financial planning and preparation is an important part of adulthood. Making a will is another crucial step many people put off because it never seems pertinent in the hustle and bustle of modern living. But it is! No matter how young, broke or healthy you are, it’s worth it to write a will now — here’s why:
Do I Need a Will?
Wills don’t seem important until you learn how they work. You need a will because it’s a legal document ensuring your wishes are honored in the event of your passing. Look into making a will if you:
- Have financial accounts or assets
- Plan to have kids or have them now
- Own property
You don’t need all of these factors to require a will, but they’re good signs that you should start drafting your wishes.
Why You Should Have a Will
After you pass away, your will controls what happens to your property or assets. It’s the last way to decide who benefits from what you leave behind — in addition to designating what portions of your belongings or assets go to whom, your will also ensures that your assets aren’t mismanaged.
Benefits of Writing a Will
There are a few key benefits of writing a will that everyone should learn. See how they’ll help you and your loved ones after your will becomes official.
You’ll Divide Your Belongings
When someone passes away without a will, their belongings go to state officials or local judges. These people who never knew you will auction your valuable belongings and potentially take the profits to pay existing debts or outstanding taxes.
Your loved ones could also give away or sell your things as they see fit. If you have a collection you’d like to give to a future grandchild or a wedding dress intended for your daughter some day, there’s no guarantee that will happen without a will.
It’s worth noting that some wills require court intervention to define and carry out the written wishes. Leaving behind a trust skips any probate courts and speeds things along, which some people may find more appealing than others.
You’ll Identify Child Caretakers
Another significant benefit of writing a will is identifying who cares for any children you have if the worst happens.
Instead of hoping a family member takes them or sending them to social services, your specified caretakers will get the legal right to immediately bring your kids home and raise them until they’re legally adults.
You May Give Money Away
Some people specify charities or local services in their wills. You can give money to whatever causes you cared about during your life in one last gesture of goodwill.
What to Expect When Making a Will
Contrary to popular belief, lawyers aren’t a necessary part of writing wills. Anyone can make a will online with kits that walk you through each step. After finalizing the last details, ask a witness or two to sign the paperwork in front of a notary. The notary will also sign the paperwork, which makes it legally binding.
Your online kit will explain how to make your will official, or you can ask for help from your state’s department of aging. Don’t forget that you’ll also need to complete forms for the financial and health care powers of attorney in case you’re alive but can’t make decisions for yourself. They form a living will and become crucial if memory or cognitive diagnoses happen down the line.
Finally, you’ll need to assign an executor to take charge of your will if you pass away. They’ll become your legal representative who speaks on your behalf if there are questions or financial complications to sort out.
Costs Associated With Creating a Will
Anyone who hires an attorney to draft their will could pay an average of $375 for their legal services. You might also hire a separate attorney to review the draft and catch any mistakes that might complicate things for your loved ones.
You should also prepare to pay the notary’s fee. It changes depending on where you live and where the notary works. Many bank notaries don’t charge for their time if you’re a client with that bank, but notaries for the state could charge a few dollars. You can always call ahead to get an estimate and add their fee to your budget.
Write a Will Now — Even if You’re Young
Everyone should write a will now, even if you’re young and don’t own expensive properties or substantial assets. Your will clarifies who makes decisions about your belongings and even who has the power to make medical decisions for you. Expect to adjust your will further with time if your family grows or you gain substantial assets.