No one really likes talking about their death, which makes updating—or even writing—a will an unpleasant experience. Often, people put off thinking about their will for another day, assuming they have a lot of time to deal with it.
Having an updated will, though, is vital for ensuring your wishes are followed after you die. It makes the process of sorting through your life much easier and less stressful for your family, and can prevent disagreements about how your estate should be settled.
Your will is a way of dictating who will arrange and settle your estate and how you want your assets divided. It can set out who will take care of young children if they are left without parents, request money be left to a non-profit or people who are not family, and even make requests for how your remains should be dealt with.
Writing a will usually is not a complex process, it’s just not generally a fun thing to do. It is, however, an important thing to do. Here are two reasons why.
Most people have some idea of how they want their estate divided and who they want their money and assets to go to after they die. The problem is that without a will, those wishes likely won’t be followed.
A will is an official document that states who receives what after you die, but without a will there is nothing that ensures the people you love receive the inheritance you want them to have. In fact, your estate will likely be divided based on the law, regardless of your relationship with family members. That means people you’re estranged from could have a claim and those you care about but who aren’t family might receive nothing.
An out-of-date will won’t reflect any changes in your financial circumstances. So if, for example, you have a variety of new investments or you’ve recently had children or gotten a divorce, you need a will that takes those changes into account.
Your death will likely be a traumatic and stressful time for your family, and dividing up an estate is already tense enough without people having to sort out what they think you wanted.
Although it’s terrible to think about, unethical people might show up claiming you wanted them to be part of an inheritance and without a will, there is no proof that is not the case. A former spouse might wind up with an inheritance that should have gone to someone else if your will isn’t updated.
Even if your executor knows what you intended, if someone wants to contest your wishes they may be able to do so successfully if you don’t have an up-to-date will. That might mean your estate has to go into probate, which lengthens the time, costs and complexity associated with settling your estate.
The best thing you can do to ensure the people you care about receive the inheritance you want for them is to have an up-to-date will.
Although you might not want to think about your own mortality, it’s important to do so at least long enough to ensure you have a valid, up-to-date will. That is the best way of ensuring your wishes are observed and the people you love don’t have to deal with the stress of trying to determine what you really wanted or how you want your assets split up.