Despite the well-known fact that everyone alive today will kick the bucket at one point or another, nearly 60 per cent of Americans admitted they didn’t have a will in a 2011 poll conducted by online legal service RocketLawyer.In fact, one-third said they’d rather do their taxes, get a root canal, or give up sex for a month than lay out their dying wishes in black and white.
All right, let’s not get out of hand now.
Making a will these days is easier than ever and if you’ve been putting it off simply because it seems daunting, you could be making a big mistake.
“You do it for your family’s (future),” says RocketLawyer founder Charley Moore. “(A will) enables you to start thinking about issues like whether you have the right insurance coverage, life insurance, and ways of replacing your lost income.”
Whether you’re 22 years old and just ran your umpteenth marathon or are ready to retire, laying out an estate plan should definitely be near the top of your new year’s resolutions.
Here are the other two, according to Moore:
A living will: Also called an advanced healthcare directive, a living will is where you lay out all the nuts and bolts of your end of life care. If you wind up in a coma or unresponsive in the hospital, a living will can help your family decide how to handle your medical treatment.
Durable power of attorney: Choose an attorney you trust to administer your estate after your death, Moore says. He or she will be objective (unlike family members) and their entire job is to follow your wishes.
It's relatively inexpensive to create a will these days, with costs ranging from $20-$50.
Rocket Lawyer and LegalZoom are just two of several sites that offer will-making services at affordable rates. They work much like software like TurboTax, which hits you with a host of 'interview-like' questions.
Your first legal document is free on Rocket Lawyer and unless your assets are super complicated, you can draft a will in about 10-15 minutes, Moore says.
Don't just assume your parents or other relatives will step in to take care of your little ones after you pass away, Moore says.
'If you want a specific family member or friend to take care of your children, but that person is not your next of kin, you'll need to designate him or her specifically in your will.'
Otherwise, the state might step in and hand custody over to a blood relative you may not approve of.
Nearly everyone under the age of 30 -- 92 per cent -- said they didn't have a will at all, the survey revealed.
But people in their 20s and 30s go through plenty of life changes that make it important to start creating a will early in life, Moore says.
You might get married, have children, file for divorce or go through a life-changing medical condition.
Think about who you would leave your assets to if you were to pass away, such as friends, family or charitable causes.
'A lot of people make the mistake of designating one of their children as the executor of their estate,' Moore says.
'Most estate planners caution against this. It can create tension among siblings and who wants that?'
Choose someone you trust, whether it's an attorney or a trusted friend, he advises. Just be sure it's not someone who's a major beneficiary of your will. If you do pick an attorney to handle your will, set aside funds in your estate to pay the fee.
Once you've got your will squared away, don't let it become some huge family secret, Moore says.
No matter what sibling-rivalry-inducing wishes you've got in mind, you're better off telling your family in advance rather than catching them off guard down the road.
Anyone with a non-traditional family should clearly designate whom they want to receive their assets, Moore says.
If you leave it up to the state to decide, they'll hand over everything to your next of kin.
If you'd rather leave your property or assets to someone outside of your immediate family or a non-blood relative, a will protects them.
If you run a small business, a will gives you the chance to ensure it lives on long after your passing.
'This can help your beneficiaries avoid costly litigation over what your intentions were and who has rights to what,' Moore says.
And it'll keep power struggles to a minimum.
It's been a rocky year, and it's likely consumers have experienced some sort of life change, such as divorce, home loss, marriage or childbirth.
Make it easy on yourself and incorporate it into your annual tax routine.
You'll have all the necessary documents out already, so you might as well kill two birds with one stone.
You may not have a say in how you enter the world, but you're in total control of your exit.
Use your will to lay out exactly what you have in mind for your memorial service, especially if there are religious requirements or certain family traditions you want to uphold.
'Unless you write down your wishes, your family may not be able to carry them out, either because they have no way of knowing what it is you wanted, or there is disagreement among them,' Moore says.
Once you've got your will drafted and signed, you've got one last step to take: Making it legal.
This varies state by state, but generally you'll need to have at least two witnesses sign the document.
Once you have all signatures needed, scan the document back into your computer for safe keeping and also keep a hard copy on file, Moore advises.
The thought of churning out a list of your post-mortem demands can be a little intimidating to most people, Moore says.
'But the process is actually, for a lot of people, a good one because it gives them peace of mind. It also enables them to start thinking about issues important to their loved ones ... It's really something you do for the people you care about. It's a selfless act.'
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