Why single people need a will, too
Don’t blow off writing a will — even if you’re childless
No one can tell you what your future holds. You can create all the dream boards you want and start scratching off your bucket list, but the one thing you cannot control (of many) is the day you go — as in die. Depressing as it may sound, I was even sadder once I heard a woman say something to me that had never even crossed my mind: “I have no emergency contacts. I don’t know who to put down.” I sat in this “Going It Alone” workshop for a magazine assignment and watched (mainly) women nodding their heads.
Contrary to popular belief, these weren’t all unmarried women with no kids — which fit my description. There were various circumstances: divorcees, widows and a few childless people. Whenever people ask questions like, “Don’t you want someone to grow old with?” they always forget to remind themselves that you never know if you’ll have the chance to grow old with anyone. If they die and you’re still here, you still have to move on. And unfortunately, just because you have a child does not mean that that child will outlive you. (I am a South Side Chicago native who is particularly disturbed that I’m not disturbed by this news. But if you watch the news long enough, you become desensitized to this fact.)
Is it worth it to write a will if you’re childless and unmarried? My answer is simple: Hell yeah! Women take a lot of flack for this, but it’s an issue for men, too. Desus, ever-the-joker, made a snarky comment about it on Showtime’s “Desus & Mero” when asked if he had a will. He said he would leave just enough money to all of his ex-girlfriends so that taxes would eat most of it up. Is it funny? Yes. Would I do it in real life? Nope, not even $1. (Mero, husband and father of four, has one though.)
I remember bringing this up as a guest speaker for a Toastmasters group. The president (a few years younger than me, I believe) was baffled and asked me, “Why is this even on your mind? You’re too young to think like this. I’m going to be around for a long, long time.” As Desus and Mero say, “You thought?!” (Note: I certainly hope he does. My great great great grandmother lived to be in her late 90s, and two of my most frequent debaters — my 100-year-old great great aunt and 95-year-old grandfather — are primary examples. Still though, that level of confidence does not do much for you legally.)
More importantly though, if you’ve worked to have any kind of property — whether it’s a condo or home you own outright, or even a pet — you probably don’t want to see your traumatized dog end up in a kennel or your home in somebody’s bank. If you still owe money on a mortgage but know of a relative who can easily take over, why not? A nephew? A cousin? That one neighbor’s kid up the block who always gets you groceries or mows your lawn? All of these people are options. I’ve known people who left their property to their caregivers or a few things to a babysitter. As long as this person is important to you, what do you have to lose?
Single people, remember to update your will should you get married
If/when you create a will, be sure to update it if you get married later. It’s a cold world when your spouse gets left empty-handed because you never bothered to update documents when you were single. The father of a work friend of mine created a will in his single days. He left everything to his sister. When he passed away more than two decades later, he still never got around to updating his original will to include his wife. He’d set aside funds for his adult children though. And when he died, his kids got a few thousand dollars from banking accounts that were left in their names. But his sister decided to keep all of the property and money that he’d legally left to her. Was his sister wrong? Legally no. In her mind, she was there long before the wife came along.
His children were furious with their aunt. The marriage was not only happy, but it had lasted many, many years. But playing devil’s advocate here, if his wife and sister never got along, this was going to be a tense relationship regardless. Had he updated his single-life will as a married man, the two women’s relationship would not matter as much. Legally his own wife should be willing to disperse funds however he specified, and those terms would have been agreed to before he passed away. (So if there were issues with his sister getting any money, the couple could work that out long before his sister knew anything about it.) But, as a single man, he had no idea of what his future would hold.
Writing a will isn’t as hard as you may think
If you’re good at record-keeping, chances are you already know where your passive income comes from and what bills need to be paid. If you don’t, there’s no better time than now to start writing those business names, account numbers, access codes and passwords, and amounts down. For single people especially (or even widows), chances are that you are the liaison who knows how to access everything. So if you don’t leave some kind of documentation anywhere (even as simple as a fireproof lockbox or an external safe deposit box), how will anyone know what to do with anything of yours? When my godfather’s sister had a brain aneurysm — and was not even sick before that — her siblings ran around like chickens, trying to figure out what to do next.
Although she had belongings and property that should have been able to be given to someone, the whole family ended up fighting over what they thought they were “owed.” And nothing will change a family member (or friend) quite like greed; someone dies and far too often you see their true personality. If you don’t want to see your family (or friends) dismantle, create your own terms and decide who you think is entitled to get what. And if someone gets mad later because they didn’t get what they wanted, it’s not like they can argue with you about it. You’ve moved on to your next lifetime.
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