I don’t know about you, but just reading that headline ‘Guess It’s Time to Get a Will’ makes me feel uneasy. Although I suppose it would make me feel worse to think that something could happen to me before I had all my ‘stuff’ in order. Evidently, I’m not the only one who has been putting it off. An AARP survey found that 2 out of 5 Americans over the age of 45 don’t have a will.
Truthfully, I wouldn’t even have thought of it if it hadn’t been for a friend of mine. I happened to catch her on the phone as she was leaving her attorney’s office.
“You really should get one,” she said to me.
“I know. I will,” I said, considering that a task for another day far down the road.
“Well, you better do it before your big trip.”
That stopped me in my tracks.
I’ve never been good at math, but according to my calculations, I figure I am more likely to get into a travel related accident the more I travel. My decision to visit 50 places the year I turn 50 is upping my odds. Adulting is hard.
I don’t have multiple cars or several homes. I have one child. No husband. A big family but nothing that seems of serious value so did I really need a will? YES!
While I don’t have lots of stuff… I do have a home filled with things that have meaning to me, everything from jewelry to collectibles to art. I can’t expect anyone else to really know what’s in my head so I guess I better formalize it.
The good news is it doesn’t have to be a complicated process but there are a few must-do’s when it comes to making a will.
- Name a guardian. If you have children under the age of 18 you have to name a guardian. In my case, my ex would become the sole parent but “what if…”. Just in case, I have to name someone else. Experts say you should pick someone like you who shares your values and can take on the financial responsibility for an extra child. It also helps to consider the person’s lifestyle and their proximity to where you live (so it doesn’t totally uproot the child).
- Pick the Big Cheese. The technical name is the executor. I think that’s a freakishly scary name. This is the person that will carry out your wishes and take care of all the ruckus like paying taxes and closing accounts. It’s a detailed and time-consuming job so experts recommend you pick someone organized that you trust.
- Draw up the will. Going to see an attorney makes me nervous. In my experience, it’s usually a sign something has gone wrong (think speeding tickets, divorce, a lawsuit). The good news is you can draw up a will yourself. There are a few online options. Quicken WillMaker Plus software is like tax software for wills. It’s a $60 DIY project. Now keep in mind if you want to set up a trust fund for assets, discuss tax concerns or anything complicated you might need to at least consult an attorney.
- Add a health care declaration. This is a little something extra you might need before you actually die. It spells out your end of life wishes.. like your right to accept or refuse things like artificial respiration or anything else that might prolong your life if you are seriously sick/ill/injured.
- Sign it. You need to have the document signed by 2 witnesses over the age of 18. You can’t use people who are going to inherit anything from you. Every state has its own laws regarding wills so keep that in mind.
Since words are how I express myself best, I’ll likely include a letter with the will just so everyone understands the method to my madness. There’s really nothing legal about a letter and I’m not even sure they read it in a big dramatic fashion like you’ve seen in the movies (although maybe I should make that a requirement) I just think it’s really important to make sure people know where I stand.
In doing research on this subject I found stories where people made a will but no one found it right away. Note to self: Put the will somewhere it will be easy to find!
I have every intention of coming back home after each one of my trips to 50 places the year I turn 50 but you never know! At this stage of my life I can say there are a lot of things that have happened that I never expected. The least I can do for my daughter is be prepared.