Writing a will isn’t exactly a task everyone wants to do. Thinking about a future where you no longer exist is difficult, especially if you have children. My husband, Jeremy, and I just accomplished this task after putting it off for 14-ish years, and I had a hard time with it. I found myself tearing up talking about where our kids would go if something were to happen to both of us. Although it was hard emotionally, the task at hand was so easy.
If you haven’t yet made a will, you can do it in just four easy steps. Here’s how:
1. Name a Guardian
Naming a guardian for your children can be a hard task. Ideally you and your spouse/significant other want to discuss and agree on what will happen to your children (18 and under) if something were to happen to both of you. When picking a guardian for your children, choose someone who has the same values as you and can afford taking in a child/children into their home. You may also want to consider where they live, especially if you would like to keep your kids in the same school district. If you don’t pick a guardian or just don’t have a will, the state will decide for you if someone doesn’t step forward to help, and it may not the person you would want. Remember to ask that person, too!
2. Designate an Executor
You will also need to designate an executor for your will. An executor is someone who will carry out your will. For example, they will be the ones to take care of paying off any debt you may have, along with selling and distributing of property. It should be someone you can trust, is honest, and can execute the task at hand.
3. Distribute Items and Gifts
When creating this will, you will also need to decide what needs to happen to special items you may have. For example, if you have your great-great-grandmother’s wedding band, you should include it in the will and who will receive it. This can help avoid conflict. If you have any land or accounts without your spouse on them, you will want to put them in your will and who they should go to.
4. Create A Living Will
Having a living will is also a great idea. If something were to happen to you and you couldn’t take care of yourself, your designated Medical Executor will know what you want done. Anything medical should be included in it, such as whether or not you would like to be an organ donor or have your body donated to science. Those are things that can be put in the living will. A copy should be kept at your doctor’s office.
Making a will can be a daunting task. You can make your own will, but Jeremy and I found it much easier to have a lawyer do it for us. You will need to have a witness and a notary on the documents to make them legal. Our lawyer provided both for us. Our lawyer offered to keep the original documents in a fireproof vault at their office. We thought that was a great idea so we wouldn’t lose it or if one of our executors lost their copy, they could go to the lawyer’s office and get another one. We also have copies in our fireproof safe at home.
Tip: Check with your employer to see if they offer lawyer services. Some employers pay for these services.
To find local lawyers in Iowa City that help with wills and living wills, click here. You can also find helpful information on how to make a will online if you can’t find a lawyer, or print last will forms here.
Having a living will and a will is the best thing you can do for your family if something were to happen to you. Because they will know your wishes, decision making will be much easier. It’s hard, but just do it!