Does Your Loved One Have A Will?

does your loved one have a will

Creating a will or estate is one of the most important steps you can take to proactively plan for your future and the future of your heirs and beneficiaries. Unfortunately, “The Will” often ends up as a perpetually unchecked box. When loved ones die without a will, their estate moves through probate. 

If your loved one doesn’t have a will, now’s the time to open the channels of communication to create a will, trust, or complete estate plan that protects their interests and the interests of their heirs and beneficiaries.

Have A Will With These Tips

In addition to being a laborious, costly, confusing, and emotionally intensive process, probate is dictated by the court and follows very stringent guidelines for inheritance succession, with no variation. In other words, if your mom wants a favorite painting to go to her artist nephew, that’s not going to happen because that painting automatically becomes the possession of her surviving spouse or child(ren). 

Read’s article, Avoiding Probate in California, to learn more about why probate should be everyone’s last resort.

Meet with an estate attorney (online appointments work, too!)

Estate plans can be quite complex, but creating a will is very simple. We recommend scheduling a meeting with a local, experienced estate attorney to get started. These appointments are fee-based, and the small investment made now is well worth the peace of mind provided by having a will, trust, or full estate plan in place. We repeatedly hear from clients that they sleep better at night and have more peace of mind once they finally get their will and final affairs in order.

The estate planning attorney will let you know what to prepare ahead of time for the meeting. Unless the estate is extensive, odds are the will or trust can be finalized in three sessions or less. 

Update payable-on-death (POD) or transfer-on-death (TOD) info on financial accounts

Most financial institutions offer the ability to name Payable on Death (POD) or Transfer on Death (TOD) beneficiaries. You can do this online and/or complete relevant forms provided by the financial institution. Often referred to as “a poor man’s trust,” POD and TOD instructions offer a simple and streamlined way for remaining funds to go directly to the individuals named by the deceased.

Your loved one can choose one or more individuals, along with specific percentages, in accordance with their wishes. So, let’s say they want a savings account to be split between their two children. In that case, they’d list both children and allot each of them 50%. They may decide you want a specific investment account to be split evenly between two siblings and two grandchildren, in which case they’d name each of them and allow them each 25%. 

Make sure to review and update POD and TOD information annually in case changing life events (marriages, births, divorces, deaths, etc.) alter how assets and finances should be divided.

Don’t forget about advanced medical directives

Leaving a last will and testament is a great help to family members and loved ones because it takes the guessing out of who gets what after a parent or grandparent dies. However, even more, important may be establishing an advanced medical directive.

These forms outline the variety of topics that come up when end-of-life decisions must be made, such as:

  • Who do they want to make decisions if they aren’t able to do so (called a “healthcare proxy?)? It’s critical that you ask prospective proxies ahead of time and make sure they feel comfortable supporting any and all of the decisions outlined in your loved one’s advanced medical directive. 
  • Do they want to be resuscitated? If so, is there a maximum number of times, or is there a scenario in which they want resuscitation to stop?
  • What measures do they want to sustain life? What measures are they averse to? 
  • What do they want to happen to their body after they die? 
  • And so on

You can read more about creating medical directives from our post All You Need to Know About Advanced Directives

Use affordable online will documents

If you’ve opted to create a will without the help of an estate attorney, we recommend using high-quality online estate forms. 

If you can afford to spend a little, we recommend using California Will & Testament documents from Legalzoom, which cost $100 or less. You can also take advantage of free forms offered by the California State Bar or

Having an objective witness (someone who doesn’t benefit from or have any invested interest in the outcome) sign a DIY will is a wise idea. Examples include a neighbor, a hospice nurse/chaplain/social worker, or a longtime family friend. Their signature supports the will’s intentions if a family member contests the will in court after you die. Video testimony of a loved one reading their written/signed intentions is also a powerful statement, assuming they are of obvious sound mind. 

NOTE: If your parent or grandparent were recently diagnosed with dementia, time is of the essence. If they are still sound enough to make decisions, begin creating the will ASAP to ensure you know what they intended before the progressive disease makes it more difficult for them to make decisions or keep family members and close friends straight.

Have a will to make a list of sentimental items

Are there works of art, collectibles, a particular item of clothing, or heirlooms your loved one wants to go to specific people – perhaps even someone outside of the family? If so, a will is critical because anyone outside of the typical inheritance succession (parents, children, grandchildren) is not taken into account if an estate moves through probate without a will. 

A close second is using a sharpie or masking tape and labeling objects on their underneath or back sides with any relevant details. This might look like, “Great-grandma Jane’s wedding china. C. 1925. Tabitha.” Then the family knows who things should be passed to, and Tabitha receives the china intended for her.

Work With Senior Caregivers Who Take A Comprehensive Approach

Here at HomeAide Home Care, we take a comprehensive approach to caregiving. In addition to providing helpful tips on how to age at home safely and with dignity, we also help clients and their families take action around things like establishing wills, creating long-term health plans, and other processes that are harder to do without expert guidance. Contact us to schedule a free in-home assessment and to learn more about our services.

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