Death is a complicated subject, not only because of the sheer size of the matter and its many intricate legal considerations, but because it is an awkward thing to talk about for many. It is only at a certain age when we begin to contemplate what it might mean for us to die, or lie in a death bed, and until that age sets in, the thought of planning for the end of life rarely crosses most people’s minds.
That is normal – it is not in our nature to dwell too much on the thought of our own death, not until that death feels relatively close. But this creates a massive issue, specifically because most Americans have cause to think about estate planning and contemplate the legal and financial implications of their death – yet only about a third to a half of our country’s adult population have a will. While many may respond saying that most people do not need a will yet, this is not true.
Decide While You Are Alive
Wills are not just important for people with a lot of money and a senior citizenship. They are vital to anyone with serious consequence-bearing responsibilities. A will not only helps you distribute your fortune – it helps you ensure that what you have goes to the right person, it helps you determine who should raise your child if you happen to pass away, it allows you to make the decisions that will determine how your life will end, instead of leaving it up to your loved ones to be forced into that position.
Through a Last Will and Testament and a living will, young parents can plan for their children’s future. Couples can utilize a durable power of attorney to appoint each other or another trusted person in-charge of financial and health care decision-making in the event of incapacitation. A living will allows you to make end-of-life decisions for yourself, giving you the power to instruct your doctor to omit certain treatment options, and potentially grant them the right to end life support under specific conditions.
A do not resuscitate order can be filled out if you do not wish to potentially be put on life support. And organ donation forms can ensure that your healthy organs find their way into the body of someone who needs them.
These are all tough decisions – but they are best made by you. It is your life, your body, and your choice – the alternative of leaving that choice up to your loved ones can be very painful for them. When becoming an adult, you also qualify for making the choices others may have to make for you if you pass away. These choices can be revoked and amended, giving you as much time as you need to change your mind throughout the years. However, making these decisions now will save your family from the grief of post-death legal issues and tough medical decisions.
Beyond preparing for the healthcare implications of death, estate planning is also worth doing the moment you begin to own enough to constitute an estate. Even a modest estate of a specific property and a few other assets is best passed on through a will or a trust, rather than leave what you own up to your state’s inheritance laws.
Why You Should Consider Preparing a Will
When a person owns something, it is in effect their property. This means they have property rights pertaining to that thing. A house, a car, an animal – as individuals in the United States, owning property means it is your responsibility, and you enjoy the full benefits of its purpose.
However, when you pass away, you lose those rights. Deceased people cannot own property – so instead, what you owned will pass on. Exactly how it will pass on depends.
For example, if you have a will, then your responsibilities may be passed on to your children in a specific manner. You may give the house to your eldest, and give your younger child the car. A living will allows you to veto certain medical procedures in the event of a major accident, or an episode regarding a sickness you have. Durable powers of attorney help your loved ones or trusted friends take care of your financial responsibilities during an incapacitation. The list goes on – there is a form, tool and document to help you ensure that what you have a right to will be taken care of in a way you see fit after you pass on or become incapacitated.
However, if you choose not to prepare yourself for the worst, then the law will do so for you. There is a contingency plan of sorts to help the law sort out where your property will go, and upon whom your responsibilities will fall. Debts and obligations will go to the closest able relative, your children will inherit proportional amounts of your estate as decided by a court, and so on.
Preparing a Solid Will
A will is not an incredibly complicated document, but it is very easy to overlook certain requirements or create a will with confusing or unclear language, even with all the information available online. DIY wills, or online templates built to be easily edited only provide the surface level – a bare minimum of information necessary to create a basic will.
However, legal advice is rarely applicable across the board for everyone. The same can be said for legal templates. To prepare a solid Last Will and Testament, ideal for your financial circumstances and necessities, it is important to hire a local lawyer with experience in estate planning. This way, you can not only create a solid will, but find someone to help you navigate the probate process with as little hassle as possible.
In short: always consult a legal professional or an astute financial planner to help you take into consideration all possible factors before making a major legal decision. Probate, major tax costs and an oversight in your will’s wording could end up leading to significant amounts of grief for your loved ones. Alternatively, a good estate plan will let you avoid that.