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Rocket Lawyer Family law

Writing Your Will – What’s In It For You

By Jackie Ann Patterson

Recently my 36-year-old cousin died in the night, leaving behind a wife and two young sons. Clearly, he needed a Will. But that won’t happen to you, right? You aren’t planning to depart this green earth anytime soon. So why should you take time out of your busy schedule to make a Will?

Here’s how a Will can help you while you’re alive:

A Will can bring families closer together. Acknowledging that your time together is finite, and knowing you are looking out for them can let people know you love them. You just might see more kindness in return.

On the flip side, descendants who believe you are leaving a mess behind may grow resentful without you realizing why. If you are concerned that the actual details of your Will could damage your relationships, you might consider simply sharing the fact that you have a plan and are making a Will.

If you have young children, asking someone to be their guardian if something happens to you may motivate the potential guardian to be more involved now. If you are lucky enough to have multiple good choices for guardians, arrange for back-ups in case your first choice is unavailable.

The people you don’t choose as guardians may think it’s because you don’t like the way they influence your kids. If that is not correct, you can always tell the person you value their company. On the other hand, with some people it may be to your benefit to distance them from your children. It’s all good.

If you want to make a positive impact and receive gratitude in return for your legacy, charities are a sure bet. Plus, if you are concerned that leaving your whole estate to your descendants will unmotivate them, you can give generously to charities and leave descendants just enough to show you remembered them.

Be sure to tell your favorite charity if you plan to mention them in your will or trust; they probably have language they would like you to use. Using the charity’s suggested language helps you fill in the blanks in a Do-It-Yourself will or it means less work if you are paying a lawyer for the service. After the will is duly signed, send a copy to the charity so they can plan accordingly.

You can count on a thank-you note from a charity, which might not be forthcoming from a modern family. Most charities take good care of their legacy donors by writing letters, making personal visits, hosting dinners, and generally inviting legacy donors to be more involved.

Getting invited to charity dinners posed a minor dilemma for me. After all, I’m not contributing to the charity in order to score a free dinner every year. What I decided to do was bring a new person to each event to introduce them to the work of the charities. Now not only are these dinners fun and interesting, they give the opportunity to invite friends and family to learn about the charity too.

Of course, as you learn more about the charity and its projects, you might find yourself getting more involved now, which can add a satisfying dimension to your life. One study of happiness suggested 100 hours per year is the optimal amount to devote to charity and community service to increase our own sense of well-being. That’s only about 2 hours per week.

You could even count making your Will towards your hours of charity. You might need to find something else to do for the other 51 weeks because it probably takes only a couple hours for your Will.

Making a will means facing the fact that you are going to die someday. Granted, this is a scary notion. However, many cultures embrace death more than we do in the U.S., possibly because they are aware of the silver lining: nothing is more precious than what we think might end all too soon. Accepting the inevitability of death can actually lead to more happiness and fulfillment as a person is motivated to make the best use of their time and value every moment.

Not the least of the advantages of making a will is your own peace of mind. You wouldn’t have read this far if you didn’t already know deep down that you want to leave things in order if the worst should happen to you. Leaving an important task undone can drag on you while getting at it can boost your energy.

At least set your foot on the path and take the first step toward planning your estate. Take a moment and ask yourself, “Who?” Jot down who you would want to take charge of your estate, who you would want as guardian(s) for your children, and who are your beneficiaries. This is the bulk of the information you need to create a will online or with the help of an attorney. Now you just need to get it formatted and properly signed in front of witnesses. That’s all the heavy lifting involved.

Make that will and see if you don’t enjoy more out of life!

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 titledAdministering 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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