For centuries we have been told the importance of writing a will, and yet 71% of Americans under the age of 34 don’t have one. Millennials aren’t the only generation neglecting the importance of a will, either. Almost half (41%) of the Baby Boomer generation has yet to write a formal will.
Perhaps the biggest reason Americans aren’t writing their wills is because they don’t understand the weight wills carry, or the consequences that occur as a result of not writing one. Below are the leading ramifications of failing to write a will before you die.
What Happens if I Neglect to Write a Will Before I Die?
There will be no one to act as the administrator of your estate, meaning your estate (home, belongings, assets, etc.) could be turned over to the state.
If you are a parent with children under 18 years old, there is no way for you to appoint a responsible guardian (i.e. friend, family member, etc.) to care for your children, thus the government may need to appoint a Public Guardian to take control of your children’s lives.
You’ll have no say in your burial proceedings.
Your children or beneficiaries might not receive the amount of money you’d like them to have.
The Public Guardian responsible for your children has the final say in your child’s financial future if they are a minor.
Assets that you wish to keep within the family might be sold if your estate is not properly funded.
You may have to depend on the government to decide the economic fate of your family or loved ones as, without a will, you are unable to either include or exclude any beneficiaries.
10 Easy Steps to Writing a Will
Maybe the biggest reason Americans aren’t writing wills is because they assume writing a will is a difficult, time consuming task. Contrary to this belief, a will can be written in 10 easy steps:
Hire a professional or use a legal online site. Without the help of a seasoned, educated individual or certified website, you could potentially make errors that could cost your loved ones hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Decide on beneficiaries. After your death, your estate - your home, money, belongings, assets, etc. - has to go somewhere, and you don’t want it being handed over to the hands of the state. Instead, appoint an individual/s who will be the sole recipients of your wealth.
Select an executor of your will. An executor will make sure all of your final wishes are carried out appropriately, so make sure it’s someone you trust.
Elect for your executor to receive compensation or not. Banks and lawyers who act as your executor typically include a fee for their services. This is usually between two and four percent of your estate’s assets.
Choose a responsible guardian for your children. Though it’s a good idea to ask this selected individual if they accept the potential responsibilities of guardianship, it is not required by law.
Detail the distribution of your assets. Do you have valuables that you wish to go to particular individuals? If so, make sure you note this in your will.
Consider attaching a letter if you wish to include more information - especially if you wish to include a more sentimental means of your hopes and dreams for your assets, children, estate, etc.
Obtain proper signatures. Law requires your will to be signed by at least two witnesses who are not standing to inherit anything in your will and who are over the age of 18. These individuals should also be people who are expected to live much longer than you.
Find a safe place to put your will. This safe place should not be a random box in the back of your closet or a drawer in your cluttered desk. Put your will in a place that people will be able to find it in the event of your unexpected death.
Consider revisiting and revising your will every four to five years to ensure all information is still accurate and as you wish.
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