Andy Roche, MBA, CPA, CFP®
If you don’t have a will, you’re not alone. Approximately 55 percent of Americans have yet to prepare this essential document. It’s understandable: No one wants to spend a lot of time planning for when they are no longer around.
But as valid as the reason for avoidance is, every adult, regardless of age, should have a will. Here’s why.
Reason 1: It’s Not About You
Though a will is the legal expression of your last wishes, it’s really not about you so much as the people you care about. These are the people who will have to carry on…without you…and without directions on what to do with your financial and personal assets if you don’t leave a will.
When you don’t have a will, decisions like who receives your property and in what amounts are determined by state law. The matter can take months, and even years, to sort out if there are challenges by potential heirs. It can also lead to unintended consequences. For instance, parents or siblings you’ve been estranged from for years could end up inheriting your property rather than your fiancé or life partner.
Even if the state laws lead to the same distribution you would have preferred, the uncertainty can cause disagreements among your survivors. These can then result in lengthy and emotionally exhausting divisions over who was promised what and make holidays a minefield of hurt feelings and misunderstanding for years to come.
Reason 2: Unclear Future for Your Children
Arrangements for the care and custody of underage children are also covered within wills. State law and state welfare agencies can quickly get involved and undermine your intentions. For instance, custody could end up reverting to an ex-spouse despite your remarriage or bypass a life partner and send your children to live with a grandparent, or even foster care.
Reason 3: Undermining Your Legacy
For many, causes and support for community initiatives or organizations are important elements in their lives. Without a will, these causes may be left without your support—personal and financial.
Don’t Be That Person
As intimidating as it is to think about your last wishes, the process can be fairly simple, especially when you are younger and have a less complicated financial life.
Online legal advice services provide ready access to immediate, do-it-yourself options. But to ensure your assets are properly titled and your wishes accounted for, a family law attorney may be a better alternative.
If named as your executor or trustee, Old Second will enact your documents when the time comes. It’s an option that can spare your family from the responsibility and the time involved in settling an estate. Talk to any of our wealth management representatives about these services or if you need help creating a list of questions and considerations to discuss with your attorney. We can also review a draft of your documents once they are prepared and answer any additional questions that may have come up since your first meeting with your attorney.