A simple will is all most people need, but many people make excuses instead. What's Yours?
1. Excuse #1: "I don't own very much."
2. Excuse #2: "My spouse will get everything anyway, which is what I want."
3. Excuse #3: "We own everything jointly."
4. Excuse #4: "We can't decide on a guardian."
5. Excuse #5: "We've decided on guardians, but need to check with them first." (Ditto for executor)
6. Excuse #6:"Things are about to change. I'm about to: (get married, get divorced, have a(nother) child, move to another state, buy a house...)."
7. Excuse #7: "I can't decide whether my teenagers will need a trust."
8. Excuse #8: "I don't know a lawyer."
9. Excuse #9: ""Legal fees are expensive."
10. Excuse #10: "But I LIKE feeling guilty."
Every adult ought to have an up-to date will. Most of us know that. Yet three quarters of us don't have one. Older people are more likely to have wills than younger ones but a majority of people die intestate--without a will. That is not always a tragedy, but it sometimes is, and it's always a mistake. Here are some of the excuses people often give for not making a will:
Excuse #1: "I don't own very much."
You probably own more than you realize. If you've recently done a net worth statement (a list of what you own and what you owe) you've probably found that out. If you haven't, it can be an eye-opener to see how much you have accumulated. A net worth statement is desirable information, not only in preparing a will but in preparing for a legal check-up.
But even if you do have relatively little, somebody is going to get that property when you die. Why shouldn't you decide who? And if you don't decide whom you want to oversee your affairs, a court will have to appoint someone. And that person will have to pay a bond.
If you have minor children, the most important reason for making a will is to select a guardian for them should you and your spouse, if any, be killed at the same time. Surely you have preferences among the members of your families. Can you trust a judge to reach the right decision? Guardianship fights can be nasty. And what sort of "last impression" of you would such a mess convey?
Excuse #2: "My spouse will get everything anyway, which is what I want."
Perhaps not so if you have children or grandchildren. Your spouse may get only part of your estate.
What if you both die at once? Shouldn't you say what should happen to your property then?
And why should your spouse have to pay a bond? The law requires it unless you specify otherwise in a will.
Excuse #3: "We own everything jointly."
While it's very common for houses, bank accounts and vehicles to be jointly owned, that's seldom true for household furnishings, collections, etc. And are you sure about the vehicles and bank accounts?
What about the life insurance? Life insurance is generally outside the estate. Meaning, the insurance company will pay to the beneficiary listed on the policy, not to who you might list in your will.
Excuse #4: "We can't decide on a guardian."
It can be a tough decision. Each of the possibilities has strengths and weaknesses. There are so many factors to consider: age and health, resources and energy, character and values, personalities, geography, etc. It could be one of the most important decisions you'll ever make. It could create some friction among your relatives. But shouldn't you decide instead of a judge? You know your children and your relatives a whole lot better.
Excuse #5: "We've decided on guardians, but need to check with them first." (Ditto for executor)
This sounds good, but how long have you been meaning to check with them? You say you meant to last year at Christmas but the "right time" didn't occur? You want to discuss it in person but don't know when you'll see them next because they're a thousand miles away? Stop procrastinating and call or write this week. Then get that will drawn up.
Excuse #6: " Things are about to change. I'm about to: (get married, get divorced, have a(nother) child, move to another state, buy a house...)."
Life is full of changes, and big ones like those mentioned might very well affect your will. It's a good idea to review your will after every major change in your life situation to see if the written will still expresses your current wishes. But except for a very short period of time, you shouldn't let an impending change stop you from making a will. You can change your will any time you want, but you can't write one after you die.
Excuse #7: "I can't decide whether my teenagers will need a trust."
The safe course is to provide for a trust now. You can always change your will if you later decide that yours are among the few 18 year olds who can be trusted with large amounts of money, especially after the tragedy of your (premature) demise. Unless you have a will and provide otherwise your child probably will be entitled to his share of your estate, in cash, when he turns 18. Some car dealer may be grateful for your neglect.
Excuse #8: "I don't know a lawyer."
My office would be happy to draft your will and other documents for you. We have considerable experience in this area and are eager to provide this important legal service.
Excuse #9: "Legal fees are expensive."
While the cost of will documents vary depending on the complexity of your estate, the money spent in bonds and lawsuits over your wishes, not to mention the peace of mind that comes from having things done the way you want (both with your property and your health) will be far greater than those legal fees.
Excuse #10: "But I LIKE feeling guilty."
Oh, come on. Wouldn't you rather feel guilty about something more fun, or delicious and fattening, and with less serious consequences?
Stop making excuses. Contact us to discuss the best course of action for you and your family.