Your will acts as a guide to your loved ones about your wishes for after you pass away. In it, you will instruct your loved ones in a few very important tasks. You will name an executor to take charge of fulfilling your final wishes, and you’ll divvy up your worldly possessions.

A will is so much more than this, though. Your last will and testament are where you name guardians for any dependent children you have and decide who will take care of your pets. It’s also where you’ll decide how you’ll pay back any debts or taxes that you’ll leave behind.

A will is not where you state how you wish to be buried or what you want at your funeral. Your final arrangements determine that, and you should make those at the same time you make your will.

It may not be the most cheerful of subjects, but laying out a plan for after you pass away is one of the smartest things you can do. When should you have this conversation?

After a Medical Diagnosis

Sadly, a medical diagnosis can act as a painful reminder of one’s mortality. Depending on your diagnosis, drafting a will may become an immediate concern. Regardless, a significant medical diagnosis represents a massive life change.

As you begin to learn about your diagnosis, things may feel like they are completely out of your hands. For this reason, some find solace in writing their will during this time since it can give a sense of control. Others take comfort in knowing things are planned for afterward.

After a Major Life Change

Whenever there’s a big event in your life, it’s wise to change your will to reflect that change. This is especially true of when somebody enters or leaves your life. If there’s a marriage or birth, you’ll want to add that person to your will. The birth of a child or grandchild is especially important to account for in a will, as you’ll want to do what you can to take care of them after you’re gone.

The same is true for divorce, a serious falling out, or the death of a loved one. In the case of divorce or a falling out, you may make the reasonable decision to exclude a person from your estate. In the case of a death, you’ll want to ensure your will reflects that. If you pass and someone in your will is also deceased, it can create confusion.

Another reason to change your will is if you have a significant change in assets. We’re optimists, so let’s say you hit the lottery. You’ll absolutely want to update your will to account for this major change to your finances. You may also want to give some of your extra money to a charity of your choice or towards any taxes you’ll need to pay. At the same time, if you fall on hard times, you’ll need to address this in your will, as well.

Right Now

If you haven’t yet discussed your will with a professional, or it’s been a while, there’s no time like the present. It may seem like a morbid thought, but we never know what twists life has for us.

Sadly, 60 percent of Americans don’t have a will. If the worst should happen — and it can in the blink of an eye — your loved ones will be left without your wishes. You never want to suspect it, but inheritance battles do happen within even the most-loving families. Your will can head these arguments off by plainly stating who gets what. In a sense, it’s a gift to your loved ones, since it removes the stress of making difficult decisions without your guidance.

If you die without a will, the state will direct the allocation of your assets, and more than likely will do so in a way you would not have preferred. When you pass, your family will be mourning and lacking a will adds another stress. Writing your will is one way you can help your loved ones, even after you’ve passed on.

Further Reading

RocketLawyer — What Do You Want to Get Out of Your Estate Plan?