Why do I need a will…I don’t really have any assets? My spouse will get everything right? My family knows what I want and I trust them. I have still have time, I’ll do it when…
Do any of these statements sound familiar? Studies show that anywhere from 60-70% of Americans do not have a will or have a will that is out of date which means that when they die they will have died “intestate” which means that the state will determine how your assets are distributed and each state has its own guidelines to follow. The problem with this is that rather than you deciding who gets what, or how much people get you end up having no choice and worse yet, if you die and no relatives can be found the state will likely end up with the assets from your estate.
When living heirs are found with no estate plan in place the courts often time have to get involved as fights over certain assets occur and families are torn apart. We would like to think that our family would not fight over money or assets upon our death, but unfortunately that is not always the truth. Take for instance if you had children and just recently got married. Depending on where you live your new spouse might receive all of the assets in your estate with your children getting nothing which might be ok with you, but unless it has been expressed to your children that your spouse is going to be getting your estate when you pass then I guarantee there will be troubles for your new spouse.
The point of the matter is that it is important for you to have a will in place. A will allows you to specify who has legal rights to your assets and it alleviates questions, fights, and it reduces stress from an already stressful situation of losing a loved one. Further to the point it allows you to determine how your minor children will be cared for upon your passing. Do you really want the state to determine who will care for your children or to determine how they are cared for? My wife and I have already had the conversations with those who will care for our child upon our death and they share our values and are people that we know will train her up in the way we would desire for her to go. We also have made it clear that as her caretaker they will be able to receive money to help in caring for her as well as how money will be dispersed to her over time.
If a will is so important then why don’t more people have a will in place? The answer to this lies within the questions at the beginning of the article. Most people do not really understand how important a will is or they think they still have time and it gets put off to be done at a later date. The problem with putting off making a will is that the later date may not come soon enough or the later date might keep getting pushed back until it’s too late.
For most people creating a will is a fairly easy process, unless you are a person with a huge estate and have specific and complicated desires for how your assets will be dispersed. Most people though will be able to go to an online will writing service, make sure it is a state specific place that actually has lawyers to help with questions. If you are uncomfortable then a lawyer is another great option to help you create your will in a way that you will have no questions about what will happen when you die. Whatever you chose to do make sure that you understand what you are doing and make sure that it is an executable will, meaning that it is very clear in its instructions.
Remember, a will is supposed to help make things easier on those who are left behind after you die and they are essential items to have in place unless you want to cause undue stress let the state figure it out. In some situations you might even want to have a trust put into place as it allows for more management of funds with stipulations using a third party. There are other things to keep in mind when estate planning such as: setting up an advance directive, a power of attorney, living will (to explain when you want to be allowed to die rather than being treated), updating beneficiaries, and ensuring you have enough life insurance. Lastly, you should have a list of all these documents, your finances, etc. put in a safe place where people know where they are and you would be wise to review this with your family on a fairly regular basis so there are no questions.
Planning your estate does not have to be costly or complicated, but is does have to be done by you and the sooner you do it the better off you will be. Do not burden your family further upon your death by not having your affairs in order. The last thing that your family needs is to try to figure out finances or to figure out who gets what upon your death. No one likes to talk about these things or to think about dying, but we will all die and the better you plan now the easier it will be when you die. The only question is when you will die and will you do the preparation beforehand so that your family will not be left to figure it out while also dealing with your passing. Don’t be among the 70% of Americans who do not have a plan in place.