Hate to say it but we all know its true – we won’t be around forever. Just isn’t going to happen or at least not with the state of science at this point! While we are busy being Thriving, Striving folks the reality is our personal clocks are ticking down and Striving to their own, generally unknown, timing. So what does a will have to do with all this gloom? A will is a ticket to your own small slice of peace. It is a type of security typed onto a piece of paper or two…or ten pieces for that matter.
A quick reminder before we go any further – I’m not an attorney nor a financial advisor nor a doomsday person; I’m a realist who wants the very best for you and those you care about. So, now, read on!
When I bring up wills to those I work with one of the most frequent complaints is, “but that means I’m setting myself up for something bad!” Seriously? Just because you’ve signed your organ donor card (you’ve done that by now, right?) and cleared out the mess from your closet doesn’t bring you any closer to The End (and if it does and you’re thinking about ending your life before the clock ticks out then we should likely talk…call me…really.)
As a Thriving Person you’ve likely earned some assets by now. Don’t you want to be the person who decides where those assets go? There are many reasons to have a will and before we look at resistance its wise to go over the good stuff. Wills will allow you to plan your giving; to your family, your friends, your desired charities. You can also stipulate who will not get any of your assets and for some this is a reassuring piece of information. If you have minor children a will spells out certain expectations such as who will raise your off-spring, what types of education you wish for them to have and so on. Legal issues, depending on where you live, can be made all the more of a hassle for someone if you don’t have a will. This piece of peace on paper gives you the chance to specify who is to settle your estate and perhaps even to the point of letting someone know what kind of funeral or service you want. It is, in a way, your final opportunity to direct things.
Other good reasons? A will allows gifts from your estate to be made and thereby lower the amount of estate taxes owed. If you’re filthy well off this might not matter as much to you and you’ve likely got a really good financial person who has sheltered a great deal for you but for the rest of us this is helpful. A will is a living document and can be changed as often as circumstances dictate. Births, deaths, divorces are all good reasons to re-visit and perhaps revise your will. And please, if you have pets, don’t forget them in your will! Provisions for where they go, funds to facilitate that and any other special information regarding them is helpful for their well-being after you are gone. Pets mourn the lose of a loved one too.
And here’s the best justification out there: Because tomorrow is not promised. Procrastination and the unwillingness to accept death as part of life are common reasons for not having a will. Sometimes the realization that wills are necessary comes too late – such as when an unexpected death or disability occurs. (“Top Ten Reasons to Have a Will” by FindLaw.com)
Some common resistance I hear has to do with the practical aspects of such a document. Do any of these sound familiar to you? “I don’t want to think about it.” (see above) “I don’t have enough to worry about where it will go.” Do you have anything you care about? Do you want someone appointed by the court to be going through your things and making decisions you failed to make? If you’re reading this, I think not! “My kids are grown up so it doesn’t matter now.” Have you checked out the fourth paragraph? Besides, who wants to leave their loved ones behind with a mess and extra stress? Not having you around is going to be hard enough so let’s not make it harder. “Its too expensive.” I won’t lie – its not cheap but it really is worth every penny. Here are some work arounds for that; if you belong to a union they may have that as a benefit, sometimes there are clinics for writing wills up, sometimes your homeowners insurance covers it and its worth asking your faith community if they have resources to help you get this done.
Depending on where you live you’ll be required to have an attorney write up your will – it’s a thing that recently happened in New York, where I’m located. Check your state or local area to see if this is the case. If you want to do it on your own please, please, make sure you’ve done your best to have your will meet legal requirements of your place of residence. A good attorney will also help you figure out how to structure some pieces such as trusts or foundations.
One more piece that we won’t spend too much time right now but consider it a preview for next month – writing a will is also a fantastic time to think about and get in writing your health care wishes and the people you’d like to carry out those decisions. This is frequently referred to as a health care proxy.
Oh! One more super quick thing that is important: Keep your will someplace safe. Not mixed in with your recipes or what have you, not hidden. In the bank, a lawyer’s office, a fireproof box in your home but not in some secret location; remember, folks will be seeking this out after your death and asking you where it is could be tricky!
Wishing you all the best for this difficult to consider but super refreshing to have document. Need some help navigating the pieces of this or brainstorming options? Give a call! I’m happy to work this through with you and help you get to the Thriving state you deserve to be in.