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The Insight You’ll Gain by Writing a Will

Dec 05, 2017 | 3 min | by Kathy Sena

Key Takeaways

  • Think about what you most value in a guardian for your child.
  • With your assets and expenses in mind, consider buying life insurance to help protect your family.
  • Consider consolidating excess possessions and financial accounts to make things easier for you and your heirs.

 

While every adult should have a will, it’s especially important for new parents to create a will and keep it updated through major life changes, such as buying a home or having another child.

The process can be surprisingly intimate and eye-opening for many people. You and your partner may gain new insights into your values, priorities, finances, lifestyle and goals. Don’t be surprised if a few epiphanies pop up along the way.

Here are some things you might find yourself focusing on as you go through the process of crafting your will.

 

 

I must carefully consider my choice for my child’s guardian

When creating a will, you will choose a guardian, or guardians, for any children under age 18.

“Parents often choose a guardian or guardians based on their current circumstances,” says Peter A. Goldberg, an estate planning attorney in Redondo Beach, California. But those circumstances can change. Over time, you may change your mind about who should play the guardian role.

While some people choose a family member, it’s also common to choose another couple–perhaps good friends–that has kids the same age as your child.

“Ask yourself, who knows my child? Whom does he know?” says Goldberg.

Choosing people for these important tasks often makes us ponder topics that can be difficult to discuss: Can I trust the guardian(s) to carry out my wishes? Will my children grow up in an atmosphere that reflects my values regarding education, religion, etc?

The bottom line? “You want your wishes honored, and you don’t want an undue burden placed on your children,” says Goldberg.

Of course, thinking about someone else parenting your child is bound to stir up emotions. You may want to write a letter to be shared with the guardian, Goldberg suggests. You can share what’s most important to you, your wishes for your child and the values you hold dear.

 

I may need to simplify my life

These days, many of us are overwhelmed by the “stuff” in our homes, says Goldberg, and sometimes people die with no plan in place for what will become of their possessions.

Have you ever looked around at all the things in the basement, spare bedroom, garage or attic, and figured that your kids can just handle it all when you’re gone? Don’t be that parent, says Goldberg.

Let your “look at all this stuff!” epiphany spur you to action. There’s a great sense of satisfaction that comes from having your belongings pared down and organized. This will also make it much easier for your family down the road.

 

I should make a plan for special possessions

When it comes to special possessions, whether it’s Grandma’s engagement ring or Dad’s coin collection, “children often develop an interest in something over the years,” says Goldberg.

It’s appropriate to specify in a will that a certain child will receive a particular item. Another common way to allow for children, when they are older, to choose from your personal possessions is to explain in your will that you wish for them to create a draft order (much like for picking players for sports teams) and to take turns choosing favorite items from the home.

 

I finally have a grasp on my net worth

As you create your will, you’ll want to get a general idea of what your estate is worth, including the true value of your home in the current marketplace, Goldberg says. “It’s important to get an independent appraisal,” he adds, noting that this may cost between $400 and $600.

Creating a simple spreadsheet showing the value of all your major assets (including retirement accounts, bank accounts, etc.), as well as your debts, will go a long way toward giving you the peace of mind that comes from seeing the big picture on your estate.

 

Now I see why I need life insurance

Part of looking at your financial life during this process is coming to the realization of what it takes to cover your family’s monthly expenses, along with looking at future expenses, such as college.

“Life insurance is crucial,” says Goldberg. Carrying a term life policy on yourself can be a reasonable option until your child reaches a certain age, and it can be relatively inexpensive to buy when you are younger.

 

What you can do next

This checklist, from NOLO.com, can help you get started in creating your will. You’ll learn how to list your significant assets, decide who will inherit your property, choose an executor and a guardian, and more.

 

Kathy Sena is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times Syndicate, USA Today and many other publications. www.kathysena.com .

 

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