Aug 12, 2010

Why don’t you have a will?

I couldn’t believe my ears the other day when a colleague – also an attorney – admitted that he doesn’t have a will. Because he doesn’t like to think about dying. When he said matter-of-factly that he wasn’t going to worry about dying for another twenty years, it was all I could do not to point out that his own father had died when he was seven years old.

Death is not a pleasant subject. But the fact is, we are all going to die and we don’t know when it’s going to happen.

A will isn’t something you create for yourself, to ensure that your grandmother’s necklace goes to your favorite cousin and not her sister whom you’ve always despised.

A will is for the loved ones you leave behind, the people who are going to be grieving. The last thing they need is to worry about who is getting what, and whether they are legally entitled to those possessions, and what laws they have to follow, and what taxes have to be paid. Perhaps most important, a will can ensure that your children are taken care of by the people you choose, rather than a judge who doesn’t know your family. A properly drafted will – and even better, an estate plan – can avoid probate, taxes, and delay, as well as ensure that your wishes are carried out.

So yes, death is unpleasant to think about. But isn’t death without a will even worse?


Paula said...

I'll admit this has been on my to-do list for a few years. I guess what's stopping me is how to get started. Any suggestions?

adrienne said...

We got an estate planning package that a local firm offered in a charity auction. The package deal turned out to be a great help in planning. It included two wills, two living wills/medical directives, two power of attorney authorizations, and a family trust should both parents die before children come of age.

The attorney gave us an unbiased opinion (he doesn't sell insurance or refer to specific insurers) of how much life insurance and personal liability insurance we should be carrying.

The process was educational and surprisingly straight-forward. I'm glad to have it done.

When a close relative with young children had a catastrophic stroke in May, things were seriously complicated by the absence of medical directives and power of attorney.

Camille said...

My MIL passed away unexpectedly two years ago. She and my FIL had never made any plans or even discussed what they each wanted when they died. My poor FIL was in shock and had to make a lot of decisions quickly (they were living in FL, but had spent their life in NY and are Jewish so he was on a time line!). He had to decide whether to bury her in FL or NY, take care of shipping the body to NY and they had never even purchase cemetery plots! It was a total mess and resulted in my husband missing his mother's funeral -- by time all the decision had finally been made, the price of the air line tickets were beyond our budget.

So yes -- talk about and plan for it. I personally prefer a living trusts to wills, but even just a discussion and some planning would help. We had a trust set up before we even owned anything to put in it! :-)

Chief Family Officer said...

@Paula - Stay tuned, I'll discuss that tomorrow :)

Adrienne - That's a brilliant way to get your estate plan done!

@Camille - I'm so sorry your husband missed the funeral, that must have been so difficult. The trust is great for property, but you still need the will for guardianship and such!