If you were to die tomorrow, who would care for your kids? Your pets? Who would inherit your grandmother’s wedding ring?
Recent surveys show that 50% of Americans with kids don’t have a will. What? And what are their excuses? 1) too stressed about today to think about tomorrow, 2) concerned about the expense, 3) too complicated, and 4) general procrastination (I’m gonna’ get to that someday).
I spoke with Mishty Deb, partner in the law firm of LaSusa & Deb, who succinctly summed up why many people don’t take care of it: “Most people look at a will as an admission of their mortality, instead of taking care of their legacy.”
OK, let me clear something up to help you “50 percenters” who are avoiding the will discussion: you’re going to die, so get over yourself. There, now don’t you feel better?
Here’s something else that might help: a will doesn’t have to be difficult, time consuming, complicated or expensive, so it’s time to change that thinking!
Below are Mishty’s 5 simple reasons you should have a will, no matter what your life situation….
1) People depend on you
If you have minor children or dependents (parents) that rely on you for care, it’s the only way you can ensure they’ll be cared for the way YOU want them to be after you’re gone. Who will have physical custody? Where will they go to school? How will their assets be managed (is that fund/investment to be used on a new Mustang or for college)? And on and on…
Mishty notes, “Many married people avoid the discussion because they don’t think they’ll pass at the same time. But, you can’t predict how you’re going to die. If you’re both gone, the court will decide. It may be contentious, it may take a long time, and there will be added expense - none of which are good for those left behind.”
Um, I’ve been to the DMV…do you really want to leave these life-altering decisions to the government?
And, don’t forget Fido, the family’s beloved dog! Pets are considered property under the law. You can’t leave money or belongings to your pet, but you can leave them to someone and create a fund to be used for their care.
2) In the end (no pun intended) a will is less expensive & less hassle
Most people (whether still on this earth or not) want to protect their loved ones from going through an expensive and long process. It’s a lot less expensive if you have a will than if you don’t have a will. Why? If your end-of-life intentions are known, it’s a much less involved process.
A will relieves a lot of stress and anxiety from your loved ones because they don’t have to guess what you wanted (which is sure to cause family angst and sometimes, family breakups). It’s especially important with multiple beneficiaries or when property is involved. Imagine you have a house, no will and 3 adult children. Ownership could now be split amongst multiple people who have differing opinions about what should happen with it. Even with kids who get along – 3 kids with 3 opinions about what should be done with one house can get dicey, at best.
3) End of life decisions are tough
We normally don’t even think about this until we’re going in to a major surgery. Unfortunately, you might not have the luxury of completing the intake paperwork. If you’re in an accident or have a sudden incapacitating heart attack (which is much more likely, check out this article we wrote), there isn’t time to tell your loved ones how to handle these decisions. Do you want to be resuscitated if you stop breathing? At what point should they “pull the plug?” Do you want to be cared for at home or in hospital? At what point should they make the decision to stop feeding you? When you work through a will, you’ll solve these ahead of time for your family.
As Mishty eloquently sums up, “Without a will, you’re leaving loved ones to make very difficult decisions under very difficult circumstances.”
4) Inheritances are solved ahead of time
Do you really want your husband’s ex-wife to get your grandmother’s wedding ring? If you think that will never happen, consider this: you die without a will and all your belongings go to your current husband. Your husband dies without a will and all his belongings go to his minor children. Your mom’s wedding ring is now squarely in the hands of (or should I say “on the hand of”) your husband’s ex-wife!
Mishty warns, “Each state has it’s own formula for distributing belongings when someone dies without a will. Unfortunately, this can result in some strange distributions of your wealth and property. A will gives you the ability to know where you belongings will go when you leave this earth.”
Don’t have dependents? What about leaving a legacy by giving to your favorite charities or leaving a fund for your close friends to go on a vacation in your memory.
5) It doesn’t have to be…
…difficult, time consuming, complicated or super expensive. There are attorneys who have expertise in this area and they do hundreds of wills a year, so your situation isn’t anything new to them. They’ll guide you through the process so it’s not so overwhelming. Having a will brings peace of mind while on earth AND as you pass to the “great beyond.”
Misthy says, “If you don’t have a will, now is the time to do it. If you have a will, every major life event is a good time to re-evaluate - marriage, divorce, children, step-children, grandkids, etc.”
Remember, a little time and money spent while you’re alive will save your family a LOT of time and money after you’re gone. And my guess is your memory will be much dearer to those left behind if they don’t have to hassle through all the decisions you should’ve made.
Now, it’s your turn to tell your story! Do you have a will? If not, why? Have you been in a situation when you were glad someone did a will for your sake?