There is one thing I haven’t read a lot about in the financial freedom community. And it’s lack is a bit strange since it is about money and is probably the biggest wealth transfer you will ever handle. It is the need for a will. EVERYBODY should have a will. NOW!
Contemplating one’s own mortality might not be the most ‘fun’-activity to do but it is something that needs to be done. Personally I am hoping that when the time comes my consciousness can be transferred to a giant robot who will then go on to play a crucial role in the battle to save earth from aliens. But that doesn’t mean I have no need for a will!
A well thought out testament will not only lower the tax burden for those you chose to leave your earthly belongings but might also prevent fighting among them. In my own family it took three years to wrap up the last of the inheritance issues after the dead of the last grandparent!
The quickest and easiest way is to write one yourself. You can find examples all over the internet and if it is a simple and straightforward affair this might suffice.
Get a professional
But once property, an investment portfolio and such are added in the mix it might be best to employ the services of a notary. It is usually not that expensive (a couple of 100 euro) and they know what is possible within the law and how to best phrase it to avoid any discussion.
Since our politicians are contemplating a big change in Belgian succession law it might be best to wait until the new law is published before paying a notary. But this shouldn’t stop you from thinking this over and already writing your own testament. The better you are prepared before visiting the notary the cheaper his services will be.
Revise it every 5 – 10 years
We got ours the day we moved into our jointly bought house and officially registered at our community as living together. The one thing we forgot to take into account is what would happen when we both died at the same time. Since the girlfriend is my main beneficiary and we both live in the same house and often travel together that possibility definitely exists! (The girlfriend does not accept the giant robot scenario, even when I showed her it could be a cute robot, grr women!) If there is a realistic possibility that your main beneficiary can die at the same moment as you, you should write out this scenario also.
But it has been 7 years since we wrote our testament. Our assets have grown considerably and a new nephew has been born in that time. So a new testament will be drafted at the notary as soon as the law has been changed. We always considered this testament as ‘good enough for the next 5 years of our life’. Once you have a will it is best to revisit it every couple of years and see if changes are necessary. For small changes the do it yourself approach will suffice but for big changes a new visit to the notary might be best.
Have a talk
Another thing I would like to stress out is the need to talk. Like the old publicity of the KBC –rightfully- claimed: talking works! Explain why you want certain things the way you want them. Your will should not contain any surprises for anybody! In the case of a will, a good surprise for somebody often means an unpleasant surprise for somebody else. Also try to avoid to ‘rule from beyond the grave’. Know your limitations! Trying to determine how somebody should use the money you gave him/her is a waste in futility and can cause problems in your family for decades to come. You are dead, stop wasting your time with these mortal issues and learn to play the harp or avoid the pitchfork 😉