Don't Let the Judge Decide!
So you’re thinking about creating a will, but you don’t know where to start, right? Guess what - chances are you haven’t given much thought to it at all. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. The thought of making a will can find itself on the bottom of a very long list of “to-do” items. Let’s face it, creating a will sounds somber and tedious. It’s no surprise that over half (that’s right, over half) of adults in the US have absolutely no planning towards their will or “estate planning” whatsoever.
Why would someone like you think about making a will now? Can’t it wait? After all, there are plenty of other things to focus your time on in the new year, like eliminating credit card debt, cutting carbs from your diet, joining a gym, or renovating the kitchen. This year, completing your will might just end up being the most crucial resolution you can make.
Think about the important people in your life.
How many of them depend on you financially? Should something unfortunate happen to where you’re unable to support them, do they know what you want done with your assets? If you have children, who will become their guardian? Without a will, your state laws and a judge decide how your assets are distributed.
In my 37 years of working in the insurance business, I have asked numerous clients, employees of clients, and company owners about the planning of their estate. Below are the 2017 percentages of adults who stated they have no will or any documents directing what they want done with their assets after they pass:
- 78% of the Millennial population (ages 18-36)*
- 64% of the Gen-X population (ages 37-52)*
- 40% of individuals ages 53-71*
Let’s go through a quick list of musical notables who had no will (or a poorly written one) at the time of their death. Unfortunate as it is, musicians like Prince, Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Jimmy Hendrix, Cass Elliott (Mama’s and Papa’s), Buddy Holly, Tupac Shakur, Sonny Bono, Billy Holiday, John Denver, Nate Dogg, Barry White and Sam Cooke fall into this category.
Here are a few other memorable public figures and entertainers with no will or trust: Martin Luther King Jr., Presidents Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, Poet Robert Burns, Heath Ledger, Rik Mayall, Steve McNair, DJ AM (Adam Goldstein), Howard Hughes and Pablo Picasso.
So how exactly do you prepare to make a will? What makes a will valid? What is the difference between a will and a trust? There are many qualified lawyers and estate specialists who can help you make the necessary steps towards developing a will or trust. In your research to find a lawyer or estate specialist near you, you might discover a legal web form available to document certain information typically found within a trust or will. While not ideal, completing a legal web form is better than having no will at all.
Plan for the unpredictable. Get a will. Develop a trust if needed and keep it in a safe place…and remember, you’ll want to update your will every five years or upon major events that might affect it, like marriages, having a child, divorces, winning the lottery, becoming a music legend, etc.