The Importance of a Will

A will or last will and testament is a legal document that outlines what to do with your assets, minor children, and charitable donations upon your death. The court will make these decisions if you don’t have one. While thinking of creating a will can be emotionally vexing, it’s important to consider the outcome if you don’t have one.

Purpose of a Will

  • A will distributes your assets according to your wishes, except for investments, retirement accounts, or life insurance with beneficiaries
  • Appoints minor children to the guardian you chose
  • Shortens the probate process and reduces costs and time
  • Saves on taxes if you plan accurately


Do it yourself

  • You have the option of writing your own will, but you risk omitting something which may prolong the process. Some libraries offer free basic forms to fill in yourself.

Online programs


  • If you opt for a lawyer, this may run anywhere from $300 – $1,000 for a basic will. The per hour rate can be $100 – $300  depending on where you live.

Other Forms to Consider

If you become physically and mentally incapacitated, a living will can provide specific instructions on medical care to the doctors, hospitals, and family members. This lifts the burden of family members having to decide. 

A joint will is a legal document that combines the wishes of two people, such as husband and wife. While this may seem like a good option, estate planners recommend that husband and wife have different wills. 

A power of attorney (POA) will give an individual the legal right to make decisions for another person, such as an adult child for the parent. You can select one for legal, medical or financial matters. If the person authorizing the POA becomes incapacitated, a POA becomes invalid. However, with a durable POA, the appointed person retains the legal right to make decisions for you.

What Happens If You Don’t Have a Will?

If you don’t have a will when you die, which means “interstate,” the court will make the determinations based on the laws of the state you live in. Most times, your assets will be distributed starting with the closest relatives. If you have minors, the court will also decide guardianship.

Mindful Reminder

Thinking of death may make you feel squeamish and avoidant. It’s important to observe the feelings, thoughts, and actions without judgment. Allow yourself for as long as you can to be with what this idea brings up for you and try to process, which means tolerate and be uncomfortable with what’s happening. In doing so, you are making space between your thoughts, feelings, and actions and the situation, which will make it more bearable. You can also try this exercise – imagine your passing and your family having to make these tough decisions for you. How does that make you feel? You may discover that being uncomfortable with mortality outweighs putting the burden on your loved ones.  

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