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Writing Your Will – What’s Holding You Back

By Jackie Ann Patterson

Even if you don’t feel like dying anytime soon, you probably know you ought to do basic estate planning such as creating a will.

What’s holding you back? Look out because here comes some excuse-busting!

A Will Doesn’t Have to Cost Your First-Born Child

It’s not expensive to create a Will online. In fact, a general-purpose Will for estates under $5 million is included in your Rocket Lawyer subscription. If you have more assets than that, Rocket Lawyer can help you find reasonably-priced legal services to give advice as you plan your estate.

You Do Too Have Enough Stuff to Create a Will

Even if you are just starting out, you probably own enough stuff to make a Will worthwhile. At the least, you have the computer you are reading this on, clothes, and maybe a little furniture.  Without a Will, your stuff could wind up in a landfill instead of going to friends or a charity that could really use it.

If you have vehicles, pets, and even a few bank accounts, you know for sure you are on the hook for estate planning.

Giving loved ones your passwords to online banking does not bequeath them your assets. It does give them access to a lot of trouble. If their name is not on the account and they simply log on, or worse transfer funds out, they could be guilty of fraud.

With kids, you would do well to name guardian(s) to take care of them if something should happen to you.  Be sure to ask your potential guardians to know they are willing and able to take this on.

A Will is Not Rocket Science

Making a Will online is not hard at all. The interview guides you through the areas you need to cover. It could be filled out in minutes if you have already given the matter some thought.

The key decisions to make are:

Who you want in charge as your personal representative?  This person does not need to be a financial genius. Mostly their job is to fill out forms. Honesty and trustworthiness are key qualities.

Who you want as the guardian for your children and pets?  Do you want to designate funds for pet care?

Who are your beneficiaries? Consider loved ones and your favorite charities. What percentage of your assets do you want to give each one?

What are your assets?  At first blush, a ballpark number is enough to complete the online interview process for a will. Not all assets are covered by a will. For example, accounts such as Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), 401Ks, or Certificates of Deposit (CDs) that have a beneficiary listed are handled independently of the will. While you are at it, you might want to update your beneficiary designations on these accounts.

Do be sure to get your signature on the will properly witnessed. That is not particularly difficult either because notary publics now make house calls.

You Can’t Have Too Much Stuff to Create a Will

You don’t have to decide who gets what for every single one of your possessions. Focus on the major assets for the Will. Your household goods can actually be listed separately.

Your loved ones may not be too uncomfortable to discuss your wishes should something happen to you.  They just might see this as a way to show your love.

You may want to suggest a process for beneficiaries to choose what they want such as taking turns picking one item each. Rather than leave them to fight over who goes first, let them draw numbers from a hat.  Once loved ones have chosen all they want, the rest can be sold at auction or given to charity as you prefer.

A Will Won’t Kill You

Believe it or not, you’re not going to increase your chances of dying by writing the Will. You know that already, but for some people it may be worth saying out loud.

On the other hand, not writing a Will won’t keep you alive so you might as well prepare to take care of your loved ones.

You Can Find the Time for High Priorities

Yes, making sure your family is fed and clothed now are probably more pressing needs than writing a Will.  Television, internet, video games, gossip, and fantasy baseball not so much though.

Make estate planning a priority and take an hour or two break from the electronic fun to create your Will or trust for your loved ones.

Jackie Ann Patterson is a Rocket Lawyer customer with altogether too much experience settling estates.  Although she is not a lawyer, Jackie wrote a book to help survivors cope with paperwork titled Administering Wills and Trusts: A Layperson’s Guide for Executors and Trustees of Mid-Size Estates.  Jackie is semi-retired, enjoying skiing, hiking, and travel.  An electrical engineer by training, she spent two decades in the computer industry doing software, marketing, and management, before turning her attention to the stock market and real estate.

 

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