Part of getting organized in life – or organizing your life – is preparing for the future.
And as unpleasant as this may be to consider… possibly, a future without you. However, it’s amazing how much you can reduce stress about this idea when you do the preparations to ensure that whenever this time comes, things are handled the way you want.
The crux of this preparation – and a key element of getting organized in 2017 (and beyond) – is ensuring you have a will. Further, if you have a will already, making sure it’s updated.
According to a recent poll on wills by Gallup, 56% of Americans (a majority!) do not have a will. What’s even scarier is how much that puts at risk. Since another recent study by Biz Journals, asserts that today, 13% of Americans are entrepreneurs, those statistics likely mean that many business owners who pass on will have no real say regarding what happens to the fruits of their long hours, hard work, and passion. Talk about making getting organized vital!
Likewise, another frightening consideration relates to families. A Gallup poll on families also tells us that a whopping 86% of all Americans over the age of 45 have children. So no will means in the event of an accident or illness that results in an untimely demise, they will have no input about who will have the legal right to take care of their kids.
These statistics aren’t totally meant to frighten you. Yet, they are meant to motivate you into getting organized today (or as quickly as possible) regarding your desires for your personal and financial affairs after you’re gone. This means, preparing a will—ASAP!
Considerations for getting organized now & creating a will:
1. Get organized regarding your assets by creating a full written inventory
- Make a list of everything you own – from true financial assets (all bank, retirement, and investment accounts, as well as stocks and bonds) to other things of value like your home, land, vehicles, silver / gold, jewelry, antiques, and even clothing. Basically, take stock of everything that belongs to you and has any kind of value or that someone else might want.
- Assign a value to the items above. This helps you determine your net worth and is also important if inheritance or estate taxes are an issue.
2. Consider inheritance and state taxes
- Look back at your list above and the net worth you came up with for your inventory.
- Consider putting a provision for cash (or liquid assets) in your will for your beneficiaries who will receive intangible assets.
3. List your beneficiaries for all assets
- Assign specific assets to specific beneficiaries.
- Then, list out other beneficiaries for any remaining net assets, being sure to list the percentage to each beneficiary.
- To help prevent hard feelings among your beneficiaries, consider including a short reason for each allocation (especially for physical items).
4. Choose your executors
- Usually, you will want two executors who will make sure your decisions – as outlined in your will – are carried out per your wishes.
- It’s fine (and common) for one executor to be your spouse or other primary beneficiary. However, you probably want another executor who is not a beneficiary so that any tough decisions, interpretations, and arbitrations can be made without emotion or causing undue strife between friends and relatives.
- For a second, impartial, executor, notify them in advance and ideally, pay any fee required for their services.
5. Decide on guardians if you have children under 18 and in the event you and their other parent pass together
- Obtain the consent of any non-parental guardian(s) you decide to designate.
- If you choose a couple, be sure to make a provision should they not be together at the time they would take guardianship.
- Provide for – and outline – how the cost for caring for your child or children will be covered over time.
- Include an alternate guardian just in case the primary guardian cannot take the role for any reason at the time they are needed.
- Consider writing a separate letter to the guardian(s) with anything weighing on you regarding how your child or children will be raised. Realizing, of course, they will likely adopt their own general parenting style, regardless.
- Do realize you can have a custodial guardian and financial guardian (estate guardian) in your will. This is usually a good idea and can help prevent a myriad of potential future issues.
6. Decide where to keep your will and tell your executor(s) where to find it
- Your will is only good if those who will carry it out know you have it and where it is.
- Think about using a national will registry where it can be stored securely online and an updated version can always be maintained and accessed.
Sure, it’s not really ever “fun” to consider your life going on without you. However, getting organized now helps to ensure that whenever that happens, you have a say-so in how the rewards of your hard work and efforts – and the child or children you love so much – are taken care of and protected into the future. That makes considering these things important and usually, less stressful too.