Unless You’re Leaving It All To Your Pet, Here’s 5 Tips For Writing A Will
by Meredith Morris
July 17, 2019 .4 min read
For many people, the idea alone of putting together their last will and testament can be a bit gut-wrenching. And of course, the harder something seems, the more likely the task will get put off.
But as uncomfortable it may be to address, setting up a will can give you peace of mind and save your family from unnecessary distress at an already difficult time.
With a will, you can allocate assets off to your family members and address any wishes you have left to be carried out. That being said, we’re sharing some simple tips to consider when creating your last will and testament.
Tip #1: Think about the inevitable.
If you’ve come to terms with the fact that creating a will is a good idea, you’re already thinking about the inevitable. But that’s a good thing! At least in this case.
Here is your opportunity to think about what happens next. More specifically, what happens to all of your belongings and if there are any last wishes that you may have.
This can go beyond your financial assets.
Your will can include any last wishes you may have like instructions for your burial or cremation and how you want personal items to be distributed amongst your loved ones. To keep things organized, it might be helpful to start with a list of wishes and items you have in mind.
And, if you have pets, remember to include them in all this. Include who will be their caretaker and if you want to leave them anything (just kidding, sort of).
But on a more serious note, if you want to make sure your pet is well taken cared of even after you’re gone, it’s best to make a plan for that.
According to The Humane Society, every year, 3 - 4 million cats and dogs are euthanized because their owners fail to provide for them.
Fortunately, there is a way to prevent your pet from becoming a part of this statistic. All you have to do is:
identify a caregiver,
allocate funds to ensure that your pet can live a happy and healthy life,
and make arrangements for their move and care after your passing.
Tip #2: Get detailed.
When it comes to personal assets, it’s pretty common for people to leave everything to a spouse, significant other or child.
But what if you decide to leave your belongings to multiple people?
Sounds good, just make sure you state that in your will. And, in this case, you might want to get as detailed as possible, it will help your family out in the long run.
Your will should state who gets what and if there are stipulations to a person receiving something. For example, if you want to leave your granddaughter, Zoey, some money but you want to make sure she doesn't throw it all away at a young age, you can include stipulations such:
"At the age of 35, Zoey shall receive $30,000 to help pay off any accumulated debt she may have."
If you are single, sorry, you don’t get a free pass on writing a will. You should still write one because single people still have assets, debt, and wishes.
If you decide it's best to leave your assets with someone older than you, like your parents, keep in that at some point, you may need to adjust your will, in case they pass before you do. With that in mind, consider a sibling, niece or nephew, or even a charity you care about.
As for your personal items, remember to think through these things logically. It’s probably not the most realistic idea to list your aunt who lives on the opposite coast as the person you'd want to receive your car.
And if you have kids, consider choosing a guardian who is close to you from a relationship and physical standpoint (more on this below).
Tip #3: Address the elephant in the room.
In other words, address your debt.
If you have debt, ask yourself, "how is this going to get paid?"
Just because you're no longer around doesn't mean your debt suddenly disappears (for the most part). So, if you have debt, consider assets that can be used to pay off any outstanding debt.
Keep in mind that as you pay off debt throughout your life, this could alter the assets you have to leave your loved one. With that in mind, be sure to periodically revisit your will and adjust accordingly.
Tip #4: Be consistent.
Make sure your beneficiary and joint accounts match the language you have stated in your will. Because, regardless of what your will says, items like your 401(k), insurance, or a home that is jointly owned, may bypass your will.
Tip #5: Communicate your decisions.
If you have children, you will want to list a guardian for them. Be sure to include an alternate or two, in the event your first choice is not able to take on the role.
Once you've come up with a couple of options, be sure to communicate with them about your decision and decide together if that's something that would ultimately work for everyone. Remember, some people may not be comfortable with the responsibility of raising your children, so it’s important to discuss these details before finalizing anything on paper.
And when you do ultimately decide on your children’s guardian, keep in mind that the responsibility of a child can be a tremendous undertaking and can also become a financial burden to some. That said, think about how you can allocate both financial and nonfinancial resources to help out your children and their new guardian.
For many people, the idea alone of putting together their last will and testament can be uncomfortable. But taking the time to address such a critical need can truly have its benefits in the long run, not only for you but for your loved ones. So, take the time and start planning ahead. Give yourself and your family the peace of mind in knowing that the last thing they need to worry about in an already stressful time, is your finances.
Meredith is a Philadelphia native with a bachelor’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications from Duquesne University and has worked in digital marketing for over seven years. She’s passionate about writing to women to help them feel more confident in their financial lives.