Where There Is a Will, There is a Smart Woman

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Our Legal Columnist Elise Kirban Answers Your Questions About Preparing a Will and says, "Planning for tomorrow can give you the peace of mind that allows you to truly treasure today."

Dear Elise,

With some upcoming festivities, I will be seeing a lot of friends and family and with yet another year passing it has me thinking about preparing a will. I’m single and don’t have children (yet) but I’ve been told that I shouldn’t put this off just because I don’t have children and a husband. I do have assets to consider. What’s the first step? It’s something that I have putting off for a long time but I know I need to do.

Cathy S., Chicago, Ill.
Dear Cathy,

Family festivities allow us extended time with those we love. It’s also a time to reflect about the upcoming year, and the future in general. It can – and should – include some time planning for the unexpected. In fact, it’s a very good time to make sure you’ve planned for a future without you.

Writing a will seems like an awfully grim task to undertake in the middle of holiday and birthday festivities. I’m not suggesting that, right after you finish clearing off the Thanksgiving turkey or wrapping a birthday present, you immediately hole up at your desk to consider these sobering matters. But you should find some “down” time where you can take a few moments to ensure that the people you love are taken care of after you’re gone. During a holiday or the end of another year is as good a time as any to put the “big picture” into perspective.

Writing a will ensures that your assets will be distributed as you see fit, rather than dictated by the law of the state where you live. Stipulating how you want your property handed down – including items that may have great emotional meaning, such as a cherished piece of jewelry or a family heirloom – makes it much easier for those you’ve left behind: they will know exactly what your wishes are, and how to honor them. And, since you don’t have children yet, you will need to update your will when you do, but, what more important decision can there be than naming a guardian for your children? Smart, successful women, who have their lives planned down to the last minute, just don’t leave important matters like this to chance.

If starting the process seems intimidating, it doesn’t need to be. Get a referral for an estate lawyer in your area from a friend, family member or colleague. If you can’t find an attorney that way, contact the local bar association, which may be able to steer you to lawyers specializing in this area. If your estate is relatively simple, consider preparing the will yourself, using software like Quicken’s Willmaker™.

And while you’re at it, consider creating a living will. We’ve all seen the drama that can unfold when family members disagree about how to care for a family member who has suffered a grievous, but non-fatal injury. What would your wishes be in that situation? Think about how difficult making these literal life-or-death decisions can be for families.

So gather around your friends and family this year. Enjoy all the moments of the festivities: laugh at the unfortunate presents, relax after a long family meal, and revel in the time you have to spend -- right here, right now – with the most important people in your life. And remember that planning for tomorrow can give you the peace of mind that allows you to truly treasure today.

Image © Thomas Perkins | Dreamstime.com

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