I was listening to Dave Ramsey's podcast during my commute to work. The famous financial guru described the results from studying 10,000 millionaires. The research revealed that people who have wealth and keep wealth, think about the future. "I've noticed that rich people have wills, and poor people have fights when they die—over nothing because they don't have nothing!" sayeth Dave Ramsey.
It must have something to do with October being associated with Halloween and the Day of the Dead, because two friends asked me about wills just this month. I created my first will when I became a police officer. Psychologically, it helped me do my job with greater focus and courage, instead of worrying about what would happen to my few possessions if death and I met. Then when NCIS hired me and sent my family overseas, the JAG Corps created one that had a bunch of legal and medical jargon in it.
Wills are very important, and I'll always have one. Mine might be slightly different, but I'll explain why. When one of my best friends was killed-in-action while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, I went to his family's house to mourn with them. I watched his mother taking phone call after phone call. Some were obviously sympathy calls, but many of the questions posed to her had to do with questions she had difficulty answering. "Who should his pallbearers be? What song does he want played at his funeral? What verse does he want recited? What's he want on his tombstone? What kind of tombstone does he want? Will there be a eulogist?" Etcetera. Then his wife told me after the funeral: "That is not the kind of funeral he would have wanted."
My recommendation is to make your transition to the other world as painless as you can for those whom you'll be leaving behind. The military lawyer who drafted my LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT included the following reference to two ancillary documents (memos that I draft myself and have witnessed by one other person), that have allowed me to update my desires without having to update my will with an attorney each time:
It is my desire that, upon my death, my Executor ensures that my remains are buried in accordance with the wishes I have set forth in my FUNERAL SERVICES AND BURIAL DESIRES, an ancillary document that will be kept with this will.
I give the items of tangible personal property listed in my PERSONAL PROPERTY MEMORANDUM to those beneficiaries stated within that document. My PERSONAL PROPERTY MEMORANDUM is an ancillary document that will be kept with this will and specifically bequeaths certain property to certain named beneficiaries.
My FUNERAL SERVICES AND BURIAL DESIRES memo advises the following:
NOTICES: Which newspaper would you like to publish your obituary? Many people have moved and no longer live in their "hometown."
TYPE OF BURIAL: Protestant, Catholic, cremation, etc? Has your plot already been purchased? I asked my mom this question and she told me that her mother had already purchased her a plot in East Texas. I would have had no idea, and would have purchased another! I would have assumed my dad wanted to be buried with the rest of his family. Nope, he desires to be cremated.
EPITAPH: I read them when I'm at a cemetery. Don't you? What do you want yours to say?
PALLBEARERS: Who do you want to carry your body to its resting place--even if it's just ceremonially done?
SONGS AND SCRIPTURE: Is there any particular song, poem, or Bible verse that has always resonated with you?
EULOGIST: Is there a particular person you have in mind to address the folks on your behalf, or to tell great stories (or lies) about you?
My PERSONAL PROPERTY MEMORANDUM identifies all my monetary assets (bank accounts, 401Ks, life insurance policies, and their respective points of contact). It also describes my non-monetary items (firearms, vehicles, clothing, furniture, etc.) Some items are generic. For example, all my clothes will be donated to Goodwill. But some friends have requested very specifc things from me. For example, one friend wants my Lotus black belt, and another has requested my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lunchbox from when I was in elementary school.
The Reverend Billy Graham once said that you cannot really live, until you're prepared to die. Creating a LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT is one tool to help you live better, and to show you care about your family enough not to burden them after your passing.