I recently met with an older couple (older than me, that is) who wanted to do their wills. They had never done them before, so they felt that doing a will right now was a prudent thing to do, or in their own words, “it’s the grown-up thing to do.”
I agree with this sentiment 100%. Some people put off doing a will because it’s not a pleasant experience to think about, to ponder one’s mortality. Others put it off because they fear doing a will could bring on their unexpected demise, like a curse. But the most common reason I hear from friends, family members and strangers is simply that it’s not a priority to them right now. Sadly, very few of us will know the day when will die. As such, it allows many to procrastinate in preparing for the inevitable fate that awaits all of us.
As we head into the autumn season, many of us start thinking about “nesting.” Along with putting away the backyard furniture and other such activities, please put doing your will on your autumn “to-do” list.
You have worked hard to accumulate your assets and to keep your debts in check as best you can. If you do your will, and you do it right, you get to decide, amongst other important matters, a) who gets what when you pass away, and b) who does not get what you do not want them to have.
For married couples, their wills usually look pretty simple and very similar. If spouse A dies, everything goes to spouse B, and vice-versa. If they both die, it goes to the children equally. Pretty standard stuff. So why have a lawyer do it? Because a lawyer with significant experience in drafting wills can explain to you all the possible pitfalls of not planning for the future. The lawyer will also take into consideration the scenarios that our mind may not want us to go to. For example, what if one of your children dies before you? What happens to their share? What about their spouse, your son/daughter-in-law – should they get the share, or should it go to the surviving siblings? Or should it go to the surviving children?
And speaking of children, at what age should they inherit – 18, 21, 25, 30? Do they get it all at once, or in “bunches” over the years? And what if they squander it? Or what if they want to borrow some of it to go to college? To Europe? To a U2 concert in Tokyo? What is the definition of a “child” anyway? Does it mean a stepchild? An adopted child? What about a child conceived out of marriage, or a child born from an affair? What about a child that does not visit you anymore, or who wants nothing to do with you? And who will look after your children if they are too young to care for themselves? Will it be your aging parents? Your siblings? Someone else? Have you and your spouse talked about this? He may want HIS sister, but you may want YOUR sister – so whose decision would prevail?
Not so simply or standard anymore, is it? These are but only a few of the questions that a qualified lawyer will ask you to consider when drafting your will. If you try and draft your own will, even with publicly available resources to help you, sometimes it will only be determined that parts of your will are not enforceable AFTER YOU DIE, at which point the only people who will benefit from your hard work will (likely) be estate litigation lawyers.
So, whether you are 18 years old or 108, or whether you are worth $1,000.00, $10,000.00, $100,000.00 or even $1,000,000.00 (or more), it’s YOUR wealth – don’t let others decide for you who should have it. Make an appointment with a lawyer to do your will – NOW!
Finally, if you are doing your will, please understand that it only takes effect once you die. So long as you are of sound mind, you can change it as you please, and as your life circumstances change with you (a marriage, a divorce, a birth or death of a loved one, etc.).