By Stasie Tillman
If you’re like me, you hear the terms last will and testament and immediately think some uber-wealthy celeb has left his estate to his overly pampered toy schnauzer again! (Sarcasm and eye roll clearly implied). Then the question was posed who will get your children if you pass away? Whaattt?!?!
I’d never even considered that something that important would need to be stated in writing. Yes, more than just a passing conversation with your sister or another close relative. A will would plainly state this and other important details so that your loved ones aren’t arguing at the funeral (though sometimes this cannot be avoided).
If nothing else, a will could prevent your loved ones (such as your kids) from the consequences of your poor lack of planning.
What Are the Consequences Of Not Making A Will?
For me, the realization that my kids lives and well being hung in the balance was too big a consequence to ignore. Our entire purpose as parents is to love, support, and protect our children. By not setting a contingency plan for your unexpected death we leave our children and property unprotected and at the hands of state & federal laws.
If you’ve had the good fortune to acquire anything of value that you want to be appropriately distributed, consider consulting a professional on how to make a will. Some other consequences to consider and to really shake you up are listed below.
- Custody for your children is determined by a judge. Family members can step up as candidates to be legal guardians in that hearing (whether you and your kids like them or not). The final determination is selected by the judge based on his personal discretion (not your moral or personal values).
- Savings & Retirement Accounts – are automatically disbursed to the last listed beneficiary, so hopefully, you’ve kept this information updated. This is especially important for those who have gone through divorces. If you do not want your ex to receive your benefits over your current spouse, it is essential to keep this information up-to-date.
- Real Estate – all properties are seized by the state and held for months or years before any sort of determination is made. For those real estate properties with a mortgage, they are surrendered back to the lien holder. Then sold to satisfy the balance on the mortgage loan, and any other profits are held with the bank or state (if no other living deed owner exists).
- All other properties – the home furnishings, any prized collections, vehicles, and all other possessions held within the home are seized by the state. Then sold to the highest bidder at estate sales with all the proceeds going back to the state treasury. Now if you don’t want to see the family heirloom your grandmother gave you sold at a fraction of the cost and lost forever, do consider making a will.
A Will Makes A Way
We’ve already determined that the cost is far too great when a will is not in place. Let’s discuss the benefits.
- Transfers Assets Easily – it allows an estate lawyer to clearly divvy up your assets and other possessions according to your specifications. Even with a will in place, estates are subject to probate law, which holds the property of the deceased in a trust until all necessary paperwork is verified.
- Custody Assignments – Ding, ding ding! Have a serious conversation with this potential guardian before making the official assignment. This prevents confusion and the potential for refusal of guardianship. Have that tough conversation with your spouse. Then with your assignee, and finally get it in writing! Click this link for more on child custody determination.
- You can specify usage and responsibilities – meaning you can note how you want any funds disbursements to be used (ex – life insurance funds will be disbursed to Ann on a quarterly basis for the maintenance of the home and to handle the needs of my children).
NOW is the Perfect Time to Make A Will!
Most people are waiting for that far off day when the stars align and all of their financial debts and woes disappear. Thier lack of funds is replaced with loads of money! Unless you win the lottery or inherit a fortune, that will likely not be the case for you.
As with anything you want to change, it starts with making a decision. Decide to make the process easy & limit legal burdens for your loved ones by making a will. Don’t wait! Take action today!
If you’re spurred to take action (like I am) and can navigate legal jargon, try How to Make Your Own Will for a step by step guide. It includes specific forms and visual examples. As for me, legalese makes my eyes go cross-eyed so I’m heading to see a professional. Any financial advisor could help you set up wills and other important estate planning documents. I’m starting with the company I use for my 401k .
Let’s take action together, share your experiences below and I’ll let you know how my first financial advisor visit goes!