The Importance of a Last Will and Testament

Author: Christina Bach, MBE, LCSW, OSW-C
Last Reviewed: February 26, 2024

Many think only people who are dying need a Last Will and Testament (will). This could not be further from the truth. Anyone who wants to make plans for what will happen in the event of their death to their property, finances, children, and even pets should create a will.

The will is the foundation of a good estate plan. You want to be of “sound mind” when you write your will. Some illnesses can cause problems with thinking, orientation, and cognition, so it’s important to write your will long before a medical crisis. You do not want to die without a will. This is called “intestate." It can create conflict amongst family members as well as lengthen the process of settling your estate. You can make changes to your will at any time.

In your will, you will designate an “executor.” This person is responsible for following the guidelines you set forth in your will and settling your final affairs. This person also arranges the transfer of all of your estate (property, assets) to the people you want it to go to, These individuals are called your designated beneficiaries. A will also allows you to take standby guardianship one step further in that you can designate who will have custody of your child(ren) should there not be another parent/person who would automatically assume custody.

It is best to consult with an experienced lawyer to help you draft your will. Each state has different rules about what makes a will valid.

No one wants to think about after-death planning, but it is a key element to making sure your wishes are known and followed. If something unexpected happens where you cannot communicate or you have died, there is no way to complete a will at that time. Make writing your will a priority as you organize your important documents. It will give you peace of mind and provide your family with a strong foundation to follow your wishes for after your death.

How do I get a will?

While you can write your own will, it is strongly recommended that you consult with a lawyer to help you with the process of writing a will. This can also help safeguard the legal status of the will after your death and that your wishes are followed. Low costs assistance may be available through community legal services or medical-legal partnerships in your community. Ask your social worker for more information about local programs and referrals. Online services/documents are also available, but they vary greatly in quality and cost. Ask your family and friends if they can recommend someone to help you with your estate planning and will.

Hirsch, A. J. (2020). Technology adrift: in search of a role for electronic wills. BCL Rev., 61, 827.

Hooper, S., Sabatino, C. P., & Sudore, R. L. (2020). Improving medical-legal advance care planning. Journal of pain and symptom management, 60(2), 487-494.

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