Although everyone should have a Will, only a small portion of the American public has completed this essential responsibility. Like wearing your seatbelt, or changing the batteries in your smoke detector, a Will is a safety to protect the ones you love. Let’s review the common reasons people tell me they don’t have a Will and the truth behind those issues.
1. Unaware of Consequences of NOT having a Will
If you die without a will, it means you have died “intestate.” This is really just a fancy word for “the law will determine where your legacy will go.” This includes any property that is left in your name individually such as bank accounts, real estate, car or other valuables you may own at the time of your death. With the State involved, the process is usually lengthy and costly. After working so hard in this life to leave an imprint on the world, do you really want the State to make the final determination as to who will have the things you left behind?
2. Fear of the High Price Tag
It is true that an all-encompassing Estate Plan (Will, Revocable Trust, Health Care Proxy, Living Will, Durable Power of Attorney, HIPPA Authorization) can carry a high price tag. However, price of the Estate Plan is pennies compared to the potential estate tax payment due to the Feds and/or State following your death (in 2017, the Federal Estate Tax rate is up to 40%). Many Trusts contain vehicles for minimizing, or all together escaping, these tax liabilities. By creating a proper Estate Plan now, you are almost avoiding a massive “late fee” which is payable on death.
Further, we lawyers understand the burden of highly significant documents. Most firms will accommodate a reasonable payment plan.
3. Belief that Only Wealthy Folks Need Wills
The rationale for having an Estate Plan goes far beyond preserving funds. If you can answer yes to any of the following questions, you need a Will: Are you a parent? Do you have a parent? Do you own anything in your own name? Do you own nothing in your own name? Is there a specific person, child, friend or family member to whom you would like to leave a specific possession? Is there a specific person who you would NOT like to inherit any part of your Estate?
Essentially, regardless of your financial worth, you need a Will.
4. Belief that it is something you should do
When I tell my kids that they have to do something, generally the opposite occurs. It is a natural reaction. The same can be said when charging yourself with the task of creating your will. However, rather than assigning yourself with a dreadful responsibility, try thinking of the project as a “memoir.” Jot down some ideas about your last wishes. Not just how you would like your items disbursed, but how you would like certain people to see you after you are gone, or how specific people, things or places impacted your inter vivos self. The challenge can actually be rewarding. Following your memorialization, contact a friendly attorney to walk you through the steps of proper Will formalities. You may even be surprised that you enjoyed the process.
5. Unsure Where to Start
There are so many places to start, but one place to NOT start. Do not purchase an online Will Package. Each State has its own set of requirements which may not be properly reflected in these documents. Furthermore, there may be more intricate planning that your own individual situation requires which is outside of the bandwidth of the generalized programs. Start by writing your last wishes down (see number 4), talking to a friend or co-worker about their favorite Estate Planning Attorney, compiling a list of your assets and thinking of those people who you trust to protect your legacy.
Today is the day to start protecting your family. Contact us to begin a discussion about a Will or Estate plan.