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Making a Will: What You Need to Know

Most people don’t like to consider what will happen when they die — but if you want your wishes followed after you pass away, you should have a will. A will provides a foundation for how your belongings will be cared for after you’re gone.

Who Needs a Will?

Essentially, anyone who is over 18 and has a partner, children or a positive net worth should have their own will (yes, spouses often have separate wills, even if they look almost identical). A will is particularly important if you have minor children, an array of assets (such as business holdings or a high net worth), or a more complicated line of inheritance (such as children from a previous relationship).

Why Do I Need a Will?

A will serves a variety of purposes — all of them center around giving you control over what happens even after death. You can name who will be responsible for certain areas of your estate plan by making a will.

Name a Guardian of Children Under 18

This is maybe the most crucial thing your will does. You should carefully consider who you want to care for your children and ensure that the potential guardians are willing to take them in. If you don’t designate a caregiver for your minor children, the courts will have to step in and make this critical decision for you.

Name a Caretaker for Your Pets

You don’t want your beloved pets to be sent to a shelter, so discussing with your family who would take them and designating that in your will enables you to have peace of mind. 

Name an Executor of Your Estate and Give Them Permission to Handle Your Affairs

Your executor is in charge of paying off debts and taxes, closing accounts and managing your property/possessions. You want to choose someone who is responsible and organized, someone who you know will carry out your wishes. Naming them in your will gives them permission to handle your affairs.

Distribute Assets

A will allows you to determine who should receive anything you own that doesn’t have a beneficiary (such as a life insurance policy) or isn’t jointly owned (such as a business). In your will you can give sentimental items to specific people and make the distribution of your assets easier for loved ones because your will makes it clear what your intentions/desires were. It also allows you to designate charities to receive an end-of-life gift that will continue your legacy.

If you die without making a will, the state will assign an administrator to distribute your assets and make decisions that would have been laid out in a will. This administrator will be tied to the laws of the state and their decisions may not align with your wishes or your family’s wishes. The cost of this process may also eat away at the inheritance you leave for your loved ones.

How Do I Make a Will?

An attorney can help you with a will. Ask friends and advisors for references, or contact the local bar association for a list of attorneys who can help you.

Update Your Will as Needed

Once you’ve made a will, you don’t get to check it off your list forever. Most life changes (such as marriages, divorces, moves, large asset sales, deaths, births, etc.) require you to make changes to your will. Even if nothing significant in your life has changed, you should regularly review your will to ensure it matches your wishes.

If you keep your will in a safe-deposit box, ensure that others have access to the safe-deposit box so they can retrieve it without you. Otherwise, you can keep your will in a fireproof and waterproof safe in your home or with someone you trust, such as an attorney — and it doesn’t hurt to have signed copies in multiple places.

At Farm Bureau, we are always here for you. If you have questions about providing for your beneficiaries through life insurance, talk with an agent.