Most people, possibly including your senior loved ones, should have a will written to let everyone know what their intentions are for their belongings and assets. Do you know if your senior has created this document, what might be included, who will be responsible when the time comes, and where it is being kept?
You might be surprised to know that two out of five people over the age of 45 have not prepared a will or done any estate planning. This is often a task that we don’t want to face. We don’t want to think about our life coming to an end, as if planning for it will somehow make it happen faster. Sometimes there may be disagreements in the family about what should be done and, in order to avoid these disagreements, the task goes undone.
Dying without a will may leave your possessions to be dispersed by a stranger working under the laws of your state without knowledge of your desires and your family, whose input may or may not be considered, could be powerless against the decisions made by the appointed administrator.
Who Needs a Will?
Therefore, writing a will is something that everyone should do — putting wishes onto paper for everyone to know and follow will actually make it easier for our survivors in the long run. Your senior should be guided to create his or her will if it has not been done already and if she/he is still competent to execute one. (If they are not competent legally but can still tell you their thoughts, write down who they want to give their favorite things to before it is too late.)
Things to consider when assisting your senior to write his or her will:
- Name the person your senior wants to handle his or her affairs: this is known as the executor. This trusted person will be sure your senior’s wishes are upheld. An executor can be responsible for paying your bills and handling any debt collectors.
- Name the people to whom your senior wants each of his or her possessions to be given including things like house, car, hand made blankets, china, jewelry, photographs and any items your senior wants someone to have. These people are called beneficiaries.
- Your senior may want to execute any other directives at this time such as a living will if he or she has not already done this.
- It is usually best to have separate wills and not combine with a spouse.
- A witness will be needed who is not a beneficiary. Some states may require two witnesses. Some states also require wills to be notarized.
- Store the original will in a safe place that is accessible to others besides just your senior, otherwise a court order might be needed to get it from a safe deposit box or other private place. The lawyer can keep a signed copy in case of emergency, but the original will still be required.
- Update the will whenever a change occurs such as death of a spouse, divorce, relocation, retirement, remarriage, death of executor/beneficiary, or when new family members need to be added such as grandchildren or great-grandchildren.
Completing a Will
Wills and Living Wills are legal documents. Some people use the services of a lawyer while others choose to prepare their own. One potential middle ground is to utilize the services of a firm such as Legal Zoom, which is not a law firm but can guide you through the preparation process. The links below will take you to the Legal Zoom site for more information and, if you choose, the opportunity to utilize their services.
One final thought for you as the caregiver: Before you assist your senior with his or her will, create your own! It is important that you have made specific instructions for how your senior will be cared for after you are no longer able to be there. Your senior’s safety and security should be spelled out.
We encourage you to share your experiences with us and our readers.