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You know the saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin: "In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." And if anything makes me cringe, it is the thought that the state could take the lion's share of my hard-earned cash if I fail to plan carefully. So I made a will when I was 30 years old.
The will idea originated when I started traveling a lot for work. I was on a plane at least six times a month, visiting clients. While flying is safe, I am always on edge till we land.
I have seen cases where siblings fight over their parents' estate because they had left no will. Even if there was one, sometimes the fight is over the specific items not mentioned in the will, like dad's old desk or mom's silver set.
And now the kicker: these very same people, who were willing to cross swords over their inheritances, are yet to make their own wills.
I want my loved ones to have nothing to worry about should I pass. If I have kids, I want them to be covered. And I want to pick their guardian - not have them go to a random home.
At the moment, my assets aren't that significant, so I made a basic will using an online template. Doing a will yourself is pretty easy if your estate is simple. A house and a few stocks going to two people. You can keep the costs down by downloading an online template and at most paying to get it notarized. If you want to minimize taxes and set up things such as trusts, you should talk to a lawyer.
You need to select your beneficiaries and an executor who will make sure that everything is carried out the way you want it. It can be a lawyer, or simply someone you trust.
You can also designate people you don't want to give anything to, and specifics in regard to your funeral or medical care in case of a terminal illness. Then you need to get witnesses to sign your will - once that's done, put it in a safe place.
My will is at my mom's place, where I keep all my important paperwork. With it, I have attached a list of all the properties, bank accounts, and other assets I own, along with their current value. I also included contact details and other important information. If my mom passes before me, I will find another place to keep it safe. You have to tell people where to find it.
My mom laughed when I told her I had a will. My grandparents are still alive, and I don't think they have one. Death is still taboo. They have seven kids, and it might get dirty when they do pass away. My grandmother was one of seven siblings herself, and when her parents died, there were complications, even though all the siblings were doing well for themselves. Some wanted to sell the family house; others didn't, but wouldn't buy their siblings out... There was a lot of tension that could have been avoided.
I tried to talk to my mom about it, but she shrugged it off, maybe thinking she didn't have enough to make a will. But it is worth it, however little you have to bequeath, because it brings certainty for those who are still living.
You are saving them the hassle of having to figure out your finances on their own. Imagine if they never discover an account, and the state seizes that money!
According to CNN, there are $58 billion in unclaimed cash and benefits in the form of abandoned accounts or unclaimed life insurance payouts.
Because I consider my money to be my family's money, I have shared my will equally between my niece and my brother. My sister, who is my niece's mom, is not getting anything, as she would be taxed to inherit it, and then taxed to pass it on to my niece. There are ways you can give to your family while you are alive as well, and get a tax break.
If I have kids and grandchildren, I would update the will to benefit the grandkids directly, unless the kids need financial support. Each asset is meant for one beneficiary. Even if the amount is slightly more for one, it is better than having all your beneficiaries tied up to a property together.
I think letting people know you have a will is very important. But what you give to whom shouldn't be anyone's business unless you want to share it yourself.
I strongly encourage you to do a bit of research and start working on a will. You never know what could happen, and it is always better to prepare for every scenario.