Trust & Estate Planning

The Importance of Having a Will

September 26, 2018

In the last few years, we lost two icons who created some of the most memorable music of our time: the rock legend Prince and Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. It is hard to believe that these two wealthy and famous pop culture icons - surrounded for decades by professional advisers - both died without making a will. The messy and contentious fallout from their decision not to make a will will be playing out in the courts and the media for years to come.

You may not be music royalty, but you probably have ideas and preferences about what should happen after you die. The easiest, least expensive, and most effective way to do that is to just make a will.

YOU choose who gets what. You may want to leave specific items to people who will care about and appreciate them: your jewelry, comic book collection, artwork, sports memorabilia. Or maybe you want to limit or prevent someone from inheriting: a soon-to-be-ex spouse, a parent or sibling who hasn’t been in your life, etc. You can tell people your wishes, write a list, and make promises, but without a valid will, the state laws regarding inheritance will apply and your wishes can be ignored.

YOU choose who speaks for you after your death. You can appoint someone to run your affairs and make decisions about things not specified in the will. You can choose anyone you wish: a family member, friend, attorney, adviser, or professional trustee, like a bank. Without a will, you can’t be sure someone you trust (or someone you feel is competent/organized) will be “in charge”.

It can reduce expenses. You can speed up the probate process and reduce the risk of long and drawn-out legal challenges in court if you have a valid will that clearly sets forth your intent.

It makes a difficult time easier for the people you love. Trying to administer an estate without a will is messy, difficult, time-consuming, and sometimes contentious. It adds stress to an already emotional and difficult time; the clear instructions of a will is a gift to those left behind.

It is easy and inexpensive. In most states, all you need is a written declaration of your intent that is signed and dated by you and two independent adult witnesses who don’t inherit from you. Scratching it out on a napkin isn’t recommended, but getting a will in place won’t take too much of your time or money.

Thinking about death can be difficult and unpleasant, so it is human nature for people to procrastinate, even celebrities! But tomorrow is not promised, and if you wait too long, it might be too late. So learn from Prince and the Queen of Soul, and take that first small financial planning step now: make your will.

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