scorecardMy husband and I don't have kids, so we asked ourselves 10 questions to decide who to include in our will
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My husband and I don't have kids, so we asked ourselves 10 questions to decide who to include in our will

Rebecca Chamaa   

The author is not pictured.    Hinterhaus Productions/Getty Images
  • My husband I are updating our will in 2020 and face a challenge: We don't have children, so we have no obvious heirs.
  • Since we last wrote our will 10 years ago, we've acquired assets including a home, 401(k), and IRAs.
  • We expect to split things between our siblings - though not evenly - and would like to leave some money to charity and create a scholarship fund.
  • Writing your will for free is easy with Fabric »

No matter what age you are, if you have anything of value, it is a good idea to draw up a will.

My husband and I drew up our first one with LegalZoom, and will draw up the next one with a private attorney. Because we don't have children, it is far more complicated to lay out our wishes than it would be for someone who might wish to leave all of their belongings and assets to their kids.

Of course, if something happens to me first or my husband first, we will leave everything to the one of us who survives. But if something happens to both of us at the same time (like a traffic accident) we want to have a plan in place.

As a part of an overhaul of our financial situation, we are revisiting the last will we drew up 10 years ago to reflect our current situation and thinking.

We still have time before we reach our golden years, but we have accumulated some financial assets in the last decade, like a home, 401(k), and IRAs, and without obvious heirs, we've been asking ourselves some questions so we can start the process of revising our legal will.

1. Who do we want to be the executor of our will?

Choosing the person to handle our affairs - known as the executor - after we pass is a difficult choice because the person has to have our intentions and interests at heart, and it is a big job that someone must be willing to take on.

We have two people in mind (whose permission we received before listing them for this duty). One is our primary, and one is our backup. My husband chose a person from his family (his older brother), and I did the same from my family, also choosing an older brother.

We both felt our brothers would be able to accomplish the task of distributing and dissolving our estate without conflict. Some people hire an attorney for this role to keep emotions out of it.

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2. Who makes up the circle of people we consider family?

Completing this list prompted another layer of questions.

3. With whom do we have a high level of contact?

Not all of our family members are close to us, and some we rarely speak to, so leaving them a part of what we have spent our careers saving and building doesn't make sense to us.

4. What if our parents survive us?

Both my husband and I are worried about the long-term care of our parents, and if they survive us, we want the majority of our assets to go to them.

5. Which of our seven siblings are well prepared for retirement?

One of our siblings has a generous pension and brokerage account, so he should have a secure retirement. Another sibling lost his job in his 50s and had to dip into his 401(k) to help him build a business because he was unable to secure employment.

While looking at our siblings' situations, we realized we were not going to break up our assets equally. Each of our siblings has a unique financial story, and their needs are vastly different.

6. What if some of our siblings don't survive us?

My husband and I are both the youngest children in our families, so since this may be a reality, we had to come up with backup plans in case one or more of the siblings we included as heirs dies before we do.

7. If our siblings die before us, do we want to leave their portion to their heirs or split it between the surviving siblings?

We decided that if any of our siblings dies before we do, we will leave their portion to our remaining siblings.

Hopefully, all of us will be elderly when it is actually necessary to split up our assets. By that I mean, hopefully all of us will be well into our retirements, and if that is the case, the most immediate need for money would most likely land with our siblings and not their heirs, who are much younger.

8. Do we want to leave anything for our nieces and nephews?

We considered their financial situations and our personal ties to each of our nieces and nephews before answering this question.

Most of this generation in our family has a college education and good careers, so we aren't as concerned about them financially as we are their parents. Also, the majority of our nieces and nephews will receive an inheritance from their mom and dad.

9. Do we want to leave something to our favorite charities, some that we have supported for over a decade?

In our original will we left one small savings account to a charity we have been involved with for over a decade. Plus, both my husband and I think it would be great to fund a small scholarship for an artist or student at one of the schools we attended.

When we go over our finances later this year, hopefully we will find that we have enough assets to give.

10. Is there anything, like jewelry or dishes, with sentimental value that we want to give to a specific person?

We have already sent our nieces and nephews things from their grandparents and great-grandparents, like dishes and jewelry.

We do have some more sentimental things, including pieces of artwork, pictures, and some handmade jewelry from my mom, that we want to pass on to the people we think they would mean the most to. In most cases, this means having a conversation with our nieces and nephews or our siblings to discover who wants these family heirlooms and who doesn't.

The bottom line

These questions will serve as an outline of the topics we will be digging into in 2020 as we update our will. We feel that taking care of this process is a gift to our family members so they won't have to battle each other in or out of court.

Every time we have gone through this process, we've found that each question led to another scenario that we needed to consider and write into our document.

We want our passing to be as headache-free as possible for those who care about us. We also don't want to leave it to the court to decide what our final intentions or wishes are because they almost certainly won't match our desires.

We hope that our last act, the giving away of our possessions and assets, will bring joy to the people we love in a time of sorrow. Hopefully, they will see it as a small windfall that might make their retirements or other financial responsibilities easier - a final gift from us.

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