Jan. 10, 2020
A will or trust explains what you want to have happen to your assets when you die, hopefully in a very, very long time. While most people understand that a will explains what to do with money, property, and children, there are other parts you might be surprised by.
Here are three things to include in a will that you may not have thought about before.
Guardianship and funds for your pet
If you have a dog, cat, or other beloved pet, you will want it taken care of if you are not around to do so. You can designate a guardian to take ownership of your pet in case your pet outlives you. That will ensure it goes to a home you trust, or at least someone you trust to find the pet a new home.
But pets are not free. Some estimates peg the annual cost of keeping a dog or cat to around $500 to $1,000 per year, or more if there are major medical costs or you prefer luxury brand pet food and treats. Consider a fund to go along with your pet to the new guardian that will pay for future care and related pet expenses.
A digital executor
You spend a lot of time managing your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and other social media accounts. Or perhaps you have a valuable account for an online game, run an online small business, or own other important digital assets. If that's the case, you should appoint someone to manage your digital afterlife.
A digital executor should be able to get access to your online accounts and manage shutting them down or shifting them into a new strategy.
If you have a blog, for example, you may want it shut down if you die. Or you may want it to live on as a digital diary, which can cost around $20 per year for hosting and a domain. Everything there is taken care of by your appointed digital executor.
If a religious organization, school, or other nonprofit made a big difference for you or is close to your heart, you can include charities in your estate plan. After making sure your dependents are taken care of, giving to a charitable cause is a great way to solidify your legacy.
The causes and organizations you care about could certainly benefit from any donation you make. You could also direct a family member to make a donation with a part of an inheritance, which may not be legally binding but could pass on a tax benefit to the ultimate donor.
Bonus tip: Keep your beneficiaries updated
Many people think their will gets the last word when it comes to things like life insurance and retirement accounts, but that isn't always the case. In fact, for life insurance, the listed beneficiary supersedes anything you put in a will.
If you get divorced and remarried, don't just update your will. Make sure your life insurance beneficiary is updated too, or your ex could get your life insurance payout. It's a good habit to review your beneficiary selections on all accounts every year or two to ensure they align with your preferences.
Don't procrastinate with your will or trust
When someone dies without a will or trust in place, their heirs often struggle through the probate process, where a judge ultimately approves who gets what and how your estate is handled.
If you take the time and effort to put a will or trust in place while you're still alive, you get the final say. That's something just about everyone wants when it comes to their life savings and most precious possessions.