Among adults of all ages, the question, “Do I need a Will?” seems to crop up a great deal. Procrastination is a major problem for many adults when it comes to Estate Planning and writing a Will. However, that’s not an excuse to wait. If the worst were to occur, the cost of having an estate planning attorney prepare a Will for you is minuscule compared to the cost of your personal and private assets not being distributed the way you would want them to be.
Much of my practice is spent assisting clients whose loved ones did not have a proper Estate Plan or Will in place at the time a crisis occurred. The details of these clients’ cases vary from family members falling ill, becoming incapacitated, or passing away. It makes me feel awful. I care about my clients. Seeing them and their loved ones suffer is never easy. I always do my best to encourage them to talk with their friends about the importance of Estate Planning and creating a Last Will and Testament.
Obviously, the person who dies or becomes incapacitated is not the one who really suffers from their own failure to plan. Rather, it is their family and friends that have to deal with the aftermath. Making a Will and putting your affairs in order in the near future should be a priority, not just for yourself, but for those you care about.
Individuals and couples come to us to draft a Will and for Estate Planning. Many times they don’t even realize how many assets they actually have. You need to make sure your monetary assets will be allocated to the right place, don’t trust that state laws will distribute these the way you want automatically.
If you do not have a Will, the property or real estate you own most likely will be equitably distributed to your heirs. This sounds like an easy and sensible split, but the reality is frustrating and costly for your family and loved ones. Doing your estate planning now can spare your family from the trouble and expense not having a Will can cause.
When you prepare a Will, you take the guesswork out of how to distribute your belongings. In the wake of a tragedy, the last thing your family should be doing is making their best guess at how you would have wanted your things distributed. This is important at any age and any level of wealth.
This is especially important for young couples with children or individuals who have dependents. Guardianship for minors should be clearly established and designated in the case that something terrible were to occur.
If you become sick or incapacitated, having an Estate Plan that includes not only a Will, but also a Financial Durable Power of Attorney, a Health Care Durable Power of Attorney, and a Directive to Physicians (or “Living Will”) would allow a friend or loved one to step in and make the important decisions for you that need to be made.
We have had married clients who have different views on whether they wish to remain on life support if they are suffering from a terminal or irreversible medical condition. These folks often have no idea what the other would have wanted until it is discussed in my office. Creating a Directive to Physicians allows these couples to easily walk through this process and ask these tough questions before it’s too late.
Making a Will and an Estate Plan also gives you the peace of mind that, in a worst case scenario, your family will be taken care of the way that you want them to be.
Writing a Will is not an easy thing to do. It is depressing. It’s easier to procrastinate and say that it will be taken care of when you have the time. But, how do you know how much time you have?
Life happens on life’s terms and timetable, regardless of the way we want it to occur. For every factor of life we can control, there are dozens of factors we can’t account for. Why not control all of the things that are within your power? By making a Will and taking care of estate planning now, you can rest easy knowing plans are in place no matter what happens.
Estate planning is something many people choose to attempt to do on their own using online forms, and as long as it gets done correctly, that is fine. However, as an estate planning attorney, I spend a great deal of my time in court litigating “do it yourself” estate planning documents. These theoretical “short cuts” can end up costing families tens of thousands of dollars more than their loved one saved by creating a Will online.
If you don’t know how to write a Will or what estate planning is, my own recommendation is to seek professional counsel you can trust when you are preparing a Will or Estate Plan. That way you can rest assured that the job is done right the first time.
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Union by Erik Söderström
Romano & Sumner, PLLC