Money Mondays: The Importance of Wills

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  • Why is it so important to write a will?
    I know none of us really want to think about our own death; and I’m not the Grim Reaper, but I am here to remind everyone that we’re all going to die someday and I can’t stress enough that if you don't have a solid legal document in place, you could leave behind a big mess. A recent survey found that roughly 60% of Americans don’t have wills, and the numbers are even lower for African American and Hispanic adults.

    The problem is that especially during tough economic times like these, people think saving for immediate needs is more important than planning for the future of their estates, but that’s a mistake.

    I’ve heard some nightmare stories about estates being argued over long after a person has died. It can fraction an already traumatized family, is tedious and expensive and entirely avoidable.  

    How do you go about writing a will?
    You don’t have to get a lawyer, but it’s best if you do. At the bare minimum, there are rules you have to adhere to like stating clearly it’s your will, naming an executor and signing the document in front of two witnesses. However, I don’t recommend a do-it-yourself will.  A lawyer can help ensure the document is inscrutable and can advise you about specific state laws and how to best avoid taxes.

    Isn’t it expensive to hire a lawyer?
    Most people overestimate how much a will is going to cost and underestimate their overall net worth. Besides, an estate plan isn’t about protecting your assets, it’s about protecting your family. There are straightforward, affordable options. In the overall scheme of things, it’s really not that expensive. Professional assistance will help ensure your will is not contested, which is especially important if you’ve been married more than once or have children who are minors. But if the cost is really what’s holding you back, buildawill.com and legacywriter.com are two online options to do it yourself. It’s better than no will at all.

    What happens if you don’t have a will?
    Without a will, the laws of the state and the decisions of a probate court could determine how your estate is distributed, who will care for your children if they are minors, etcetera. This can get really ugly when it involves an estranged spouse or parents because the law doesn’t care about your feelings.

    What is a living will?
    A living will is an entirely different matter.  That’s about leaving an advance health care directive that outlines your wishes and appoints someone to make decisions for you if you are incapacitated due to illness or injury. You should have a living will too. My advice is to stop procrastinating and plan your estate; hopefully the documents will spend many years collecting dust!

     

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