Let’s be honest: When was the last time you thought about estate planning, writing a will, or updating your existing will? Are your beneficiary designations in order?
For many folks—more than 68 percent of Americans, actually—the answer to that question is “never.”
But why? A will is one of the most important legal documents you’ll ever sign. It protects your loved ones, and ensures your hard-earned assets are used in the way you intended, rather than drained away by legal costs and excessive taxation.
- Some folks don’t think they need to create a will because they’re not “rich.”
- Others think they’ll have plenty of time to create one later in life.
- Some assume their children, current spouse, or siblings will automatically get everything.
- And some think there just isn’t a point because they don’t have children or anyone else they’d consider as an heir.
Unfortunately, all of them are wrong — and we’re going to show you why.
“I’m Not Rich Enough”
Really? Think again. For starters, even if your checking account has just a tiny balance, the car you drive is 20 years old, and you rent an apartment, someone still has to distribute those assets, clean out the apartment, and change the title to that car.
And what about Grandma’s treasured brooch, or that Civil-war musket that’s been handed down in the family for generations? How about your collection of baseball cards? Then there’s your pets to consider: Who’s going to take care of Fido and Fifi after you’re gone?
These are not the kinds of decisions you want to leave up to a probate court! Creating a will allows you to decide who gets what —even if the only value your possessions have is sentimental. It also allows you to make decisions about the care of your beloved pets.
“I’m Too Young to Think About That.”
If you think you’ll have plenty of time to make a will, just take a look at the news. Sadly, people die every day under tragic and unexpected circumstances, regardless of their age.
And when they die intestate, the tragedy deepens.
Their loved ones not only have to grieve their tragic loss, they’re stuck with the monumental job of sorting through the deceased’s legal affairs so the court can decide how to disburse them. And when those people are parents who haven’t made a will, the court also gets to decide who will raise their minor children.
Is that a decision you want to leave up to strangers?
“I Made a Will 15 Years Ago. I’m Covered.”
Perhaps one of the biggest probate surprises for your loved ones is when the court declares a will, or a portion of it, inadmissible.
If you have an old will, and don’t think it needs to be reviewed or updated, you’re fooling yourself—and leaving your heirs at the mercy of a dangerous game. If you’re assuming your children, current partner, spouse, or other loved one will automatically get all your assets, think again.
If your circumstances have changed since your original will—for instance, a divorce, a birth, a new job, a soured relationship— it’s imperative you review and change your will accordingly.
That’s because there’s no legal guarantee the court will carry out your wishes from an old will. In fact, your estate might be treated as if you’d died intestate, and that could be a legal nightmare for your loved ones. Just look at the estate of soul singer Barry White, who died in 2003 at 58.
His will hadn’t been updated in many years. When he died, he left behind an estate worth $20 million; two ex-wives; one long-term partner, and nine kids. Trouble is, he never divorced his second wife before moving in with another woman. His second wife inherited his estate—and then the lawsuits from his children and partner started flying.
Is that really what you want for your family?
“I Don’t Need a Will Because I’m Single.”
Some folks never marry, don’t have a significant other, and never have children. And many of them think that means there’s no reason to create an estate plan.
But a will isn’t just for your loved ones. It can help you keep your assets out of the hands of a family member you don’t care for (perhaps a close relative that a probate court would consider next-of-kin). And it can help you make a difference in the world while carrying your values and legacy far into the future.
The bottom line is that a will or estate plan is about more than just assets.
It’s about making things easier for your family when you’re gone, taking care of your loved ones, and ensuring your values continue on long after you’re gone.
It’s about clearly spelling out who gets what — even if the “what” is as simple as the family photos, or as complicated as a multi-billion dollar business.
It’s about leaving behind a legacy — not a mess.
Don’t wait any longer to make your will. Contact an estate attorney today, or create one online, for free, with our safe, secure, and attorney-approved LegacyPlanner™.
Did you know over 68 percent of Americans don’t have a will? Take the opportunity to educate your friends about the importance of creating an estate plan that will protect their families and secure their own legacy. If you’re a nonprofit, you’ll create a larger impact by subscribing to LegacyPlanner™, our online will planning service that makes it easy for your supporters to plan their will for free and to remember you with a bequest. [If it is not in your budget, get the free version here.] This will further open up conversations on the importance of planned giving.