Although some people may consider it morbid, you are never too young to start thinking about making a last will and testament. A will is effectively a legal document that cannot be changed as of your last moment on this Earth. The majority of individuals actually use a will to distribute their worldly goods amongst their family and friends when they are gone. It is legally binding and must be adhered to, although some families do choose to contest the last will of a loved one in a court of law. In a world where so much can change from one moment to the next, anyone above the age of twenty-one should have one. Seniors especially should make a will a priority if they do not already have one. Every senior should know what a will is and what it involves. A basic understanding of the legal document is necessary before you actually compose one, so consider this your quick guide.
A will effectively names the beneficiaries of your estate as well as the executor. It also names a guardian of any minor children that an individual may have, although this does not generally apply for seniors. In layman’s terms, the beneficiaries of an estate are your families, friends and any organizations, charities for example, that you wish to inherit your worldly good and the executor is the person that has the task of carrying out your wishes. When naming your beneficiaries, you may want to divide the larger assets but make provisions for any smaller ones to also be distributed fairly.
Your executor should be someone that you trust to do the job fairly. He or she will be officially appointed by a probate court after your death and will be expected to sort out your estate in full. For example, he or she will have to settle any outstanding debts that you may have, as well as settling outstanding taxes and funeral expenses. You should always inform the person whom you have appointed to the role and give them the option of backing out because it can be a very stressful job after he death of a loved one. Some individuals therefore choose their lawyer or a professional service to appoint as executor.
A will does have some exclusions and thus may not cover all of your worldly possessions. It can only legally distribute anything owned solely by you. For example, bank accounts held in joint names are not covered because it can only legally be passed onto the surviving joint owner. Any payment, retirement and life insurance plans that you may have are also exempt. This is largely owing to the fact that these types of plans ask for you to name a beneficiary when you initially take them out. As a result, you are entering into a legally binding contract when you do name a beneficiary in the first place. This, in effect, is as good as a will.
The biggest factor that puts individuals off making a will, aside from fear of death, is only owning property and assets in joint names. Everything automatically passes to the surviving spouse if it is held in joint name upon the other spouse’s death. However, you should still make a will if this is the case. You never know what fate may have in store for you. If your partner dies first and you pass only a few days later with no will then the people you want to benefit from your will may not actually receive anything. This may sound morbid, but unfortunately it may be a situation that you find yourself in.
Most family lawyers can actually prepare a will for you, and most will offer to store it for you too. This is the safest place to keep it because it avoids tampering. A will has to be drawn up so you may well have to visit the lawyer twice. The first visit is generally a discussion about what you want it to say, the second is only usually the signing of the will. As long as you are still alive, it is not a legally binding document and you can change it as many times as you wish just in case your circumstances change. You can create your own will with very little effort, but dying without one can cause heartache for your loved ones, so resolve to make one.