Baby showers, birthing classes, stroller research – we do all these things (and more!) as we prepare for a birth. And that’s good. We should be prepared for this momentous life event. But why don’t we prepare with the same care for death, another momentous life event? Some people do not like to think about their death. They are uncomfortable considering what might happen to them and don’t want to contemplate their own end. Unfortunately, avoidance can leave them unprepared for their final chapter and, even worse, can leave their family with complications to deal with after they are gone. August being National Make-A-Will Month is a great reminder that you can approach and prepare for death differently.

Planning Gives You Control

A lot of life events are unpredictable, and we must roll with the punches the best we can when life throws us surprises. But the fact is, we’re all going to die. No one can avoid it. So, why not take control of it in ways that you can? Making a will is an important and relatively easy step you can take to express your wishes about how your finances should be handled after you die. A will lets you say what you want to happen to your assets – your property, bank accounts, investments, and other valued possessions – when you’re gone. In a will, you can describe who should get what, including family members, charities, or other important people or organizations. Without a will, some of your assets might get caught up in lengthy legal proceedings, making it difficult for your assets to go where you want them to go. A will gives you control now, so there’s no confusion about what should happen later.

Make a List, Check it Twice

You can start the process of preparing for death and making a will by listing all your assets. These include your home and other property, bank accounts, insurance policies, investments, and valued possessions such as antiques, jewelry, and art. You don’t need to know what everything is worth, just what is yours and where it is located. Make a list on a piece of paper or your computer. Nothing fancy. Some people ask other people in their family to help them make their list, and other people prefer to do it on their own, privately. Either is fine. The important thing is to start.

A Good Case for a Lawyer

You might be tempted to save money or time by filling out a free template or online form for your will. And that’s a good place to start. Looking over a free form can give you a rough idea of what is in a will and can help you start thinking about what you want to say in yours. Keep in mind that an improperly executed will could cause unexpected headaches. Getting the help of a lawyer makes it more likely that your will is clear, complete, and legally binding. Elder law attorneys have special training in many of the legal situations faced by older adults, and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys can help you find one nearby.

Making a will is an important tool for taking control of the end of your life and protecting the assets you’ve spent your life accumulating. Make sure the things you care about go to the people you care about.

By Brian Carpenter, Ph.D., Washington University St. Louis

Want to learn more from Brian about end-of-life preparation? Register now for our webinar, ‘Put Yourself First While Planning The Last Chapter,’ on November 16th, 2023, from 1 pm to 2 pm.

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