The idea of dying isn’t something we enjoy thinking about. But it is a reality and we need to consider the implications on those whom we leave behind – especially our children, and especially if they are still minors. Writing a Last Will or Testament is a responsible parent thing to do.
This is by no means a how-to for those who want to write a Last Will, neither is it legal advice but rather a prompt for you to consider as I share some of the things we’ve discussed over the years. This is something that we put off for way too long, and each time we would hear bad news in another family we would be prompted to do something – and yet continued to ignore that prompt. I think we procrastinated doing this as a way of putting off thinking about such a horrible situation – but whether we are prepared or not, our days are numbered and we need to know that we have done the right thing for our kids as much as possible.
Don’t delay in writing a Last Will.
A Will is simply a legal document that does three things (as much as I understand)
- It cares for your kids in your absence
- It protects your assets
- It ensures that someone is looking after your wishes (aka – in regards to your children and your assets)
Provide a Guardian for your Kids
This is really important if your kids are still minors. You need to consider who you feel would be a good support for your children. No-one you designate will ever replace you in your child’s life, and you will never find someone who will parent your child like you desire to parent. This is not the goal of a guardian. A guardian needs to be able to love and provide for your child in a way that is consistent with (not the same as) your love and values.
The implications of adding your family to the guardian’s family is also something that needs to be considered – will they be able to practically handle the bigger family. These are some of the issues we considered when we chose a guardian for our kids.
Actually this is one aspect that changed over the years for us. As we grew as parents, as our children grew and we began to know them as individuals what we looked for in a guardian differed than when they were babies. Along side of this we developed different relationships and it became apparent that the first people we designated were not going to be a good match for our older children. Had we made a Will (which we hadn’t) this would have been easily rectified by a review. Making changes to a will is actually recommended for this reason – life changes, circumstances change, perspectives change.
Look after your Assets – whatever they may be
You may have property or you may not – whatever your asset portfolio (or debts) may be we need to protect that in the event of our passing. Many insurance policies already have a beneficiary written into them – but things like your car, house, cash, investments, superannuation etc need to be considered in a will. Depending on the size of your assets you may be best served to consider professional advice in how to protect the assets, deal with taxes, and benefit your children.
Find an Executor
An Executor is the person who carries out your wishes recorded in your will. This needs to be a person you trust both to understand your decisions and to make wise decisions themselves. A Will doesn’t cover every situation that may arise and sometimes the Executor needs to interpret the best they can and make a decision accordingly.
One of the things we are doing is writing a “Letter of Wishes” and this includes non-legally binding concerns that we would like our Executor to consider. I believe that we can add letters without there being too much added expense so this is a good way to maybe personalise some of the little things that come to our mind – maybe a gifted beneficiary or how to handle particular personal items.
Time to write a Will
So have you written your Will? There are a few ways to do it – and depending on the complexities of your personal situation the costs will vary.
- Buy a Will Kit from online – the negative here is that they won’t all be specific to your situation especially in terms of State/Country laws. But look around you may find one that suits you
- Use a lawyer.
I cannot think of anything worse than to be dealing with these legal tangles in the midst of my grief (should Peter die) neither do I want my kids to be hassled like this (if we should both die). I want my affairs to be straight forward and business like.
It is recommended that your Last Will be updated regularly (about every 5 years or so). Mark it in your diary to do so.
Talk about it – not only do you need to get the guardian and Executor/s agreement to hold such offices before you write your Will, you should talk to your family about who you have designated. How people leave their estate often causes family tension so do what you can do now to alleviate that. But at the same time, writing a Last Will or Testament is dealing with the things closest to our heart so we need to stand firm and not be swayed by our family or friends – we need to go ahead according to what we think is best for our family.
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