You know the saying. There are only two things certain in life: Death and Taxes. These also happen to be the two things that no one likes to talk about (unless you are one of us weirdo lawyers or accountants). Unfortunately, though, no one has discovered how to achieve immortality yet, and there are several things that have to happen when someone dies. If they owned any property, it must be dealt with. This includes both real and personal property, and things such as stocks and bonds. If they have minor children, and the other parent has already passed, decisions must be made about the care and custody of the children. There can also be HUGE expenses that arise when someone dies. Why would you want to burden your family with financial woes when they are already upset over the fact that you passed? Without a will, your family is forced to probate your estate, which is a complete hassle. Then your estate is bound by Alabama’s intestacy laws. Yuck. Do your loved ones a favor and have a plan in place for them to follow! Here are eight times when you should think about making or updating your will:
- Marriage. You’ve found your soul-mate and tied the knot. The LAST thing you want to think about now is what happens if one of you dies. But, now is the perfect time to make or update your will. How terrible would it be if you died and your spouse then has to go through the trouble of guessing how you would’ve wanted your property divided, or your burial preferences? Not good.
- Birth of Children. The birth of a child is truly miraculous. Such a wonderful time in a parent’s life. So why would you want to think about dying? However, with children in the picture, having a will is SO much more important. If both parents die while the children are still minors, then who will take care of them? If there is no will, then there has to be court hearings. There is the possibility that your children may end up in foster care. You definitely don’t want that.
- Substantial Purchases of Real and/or Personal Property.
You just bought a 525-foot yacht for $800 million, and you keep it on the grounds of your mansion that sits on 100 acres. Do you really want Crazy Uncle Sal to get it when you die? Now, that’s quite an exaggeration, but you can see my point. Anytime you make a substantial purchase of something valuable, you need to think about, and put into writing in the form of a will, how you would want that thing distributed upon your death. This can prevent lots of family bickering when you die.
- Start (or buy) a Family Business. It is definitely important for business owners to have a will. When you die, you need to have a plan in place for what happens to that business. Will your children take over? Your spouse? Crazy Uncle Sal? It is a good business practice, and personal financial practice, to have a succession plan in place.
- Taking a Long Trip. You are finally going on that 24-day Mediterranean Cruise you’ve been saving for half your life. Lucky you! But what if something happens while you are away? I know, I know, the last thing you want to think about before travelling is the possibility of some horrific accident. You don’t want to jinx yourself. But really, anything can happen and you need to be prepared.
- Divorce (and maybe Remarriage). You DEFINITELY need to change your will when you get a divorce. Especially if you ever plan (or hope) to remarry. Your cheating ex-wife already got the house, the cars, and half your salary each month (because you didn’t use Meyer, Middleton, & DeLuca, wink, wink). Do you really want her to get your estate when you die because you forgot to update your will? I didn’t think so. And just imagine how angry your new wife would be. Cat Fights are not pretty, especially at the will reading after your funeral.
- Receive a Life-Changing Medical Diagnosis. This is one that is definitely scary to talk about, but important to mention. When you are diagnosed with a terminal disease, you will face many difficult decisions. Making or updating your will is one of many, but is extremely important.
- Death of a Loved One. Another really terrible thing to deal with. But you will see first-hand what happens after a death, and it should be evident to you why it is important to make or update your will. This is especially important if the loved one is your spouse, and you have children.
While some of these examples may be light-hearted, this is a serious subject. I know that this information is hard to think about, but it is truly important for you to consider. No one wants to leave their loved ones burdened, and having a current, updated will is the easiest way to avoid undue trouble for your loved ones. They will have a hard enough time dealing with the emotional consequences of your death, so don’t make them suffer any more than they already will.