Last Will & Testament: Death Shouldn’t Be A Guessing Game
Reflecting over my 30 years of investing and financial planning, one of the things that hits me the hardest is when I ask the question to all my clients: Do you have a Last Will and Testament (a Will)? I am told, more times than not, that the client does not have a Will or that they have a Will, but it is very outdated due to deaths, divorces, children growing up, etc.
Why do I care if you have a Will?
First of all, death is a legal event, and once you die your financial matters and obligations must be handled in a legal format. Too many people do not feel that a Will is necessary. Several factors can make them feel this way. Here is a list of some common reasons we hear:
- I am young and think I have plenty of time to get a Will in place
- My family knows what I/we want and “will do the right thing”
- Wills are too expensive to set up
- I don’t have enough assets for a will
Now, I am not a lawyer, and I am not rendering legal advice. But I have worked with clients long enough to know that people die at all ages. I also have the experience to know that most people die with stuff. Some have a little, and some have a lot. But almost everyone has something when they die. So, why make things difficult on your loved ones by not having a Will in place that spells out your wishes? Please don’t make your death a guessing game for your loved ones.
Wills and Estate Planning are Complex Issues
It would be impossible for me to address every issue regarding Wills in this article, and I know many will come back at me and say you can do it this way, or that way. Addressing every issue is the not the reason for this article. The reason for this article is that I want you to hear my heart:
I want you to understand my experiences with clients and prospects that did not do it the right way and learn how the family paid the price for those mistakes.
I want you to understand that the cost of paying an attorney to have a Will prepared is minor compared to the potential cost to your family after your death.
I want you to understand that if you own any type of property without right of survivorship, that you likely need a Will.
I want you to understand that if you are in a second marriage and you do not have a Will to make things clear on who gets what, you are leaving your loved ones to a guessing game.
I want you to understand that if you own a business, without a Will or proper Estate Planning documents in place, you will not decide who own it or run it after your death!
Are there other resources available to educate you about Last Will and Testaments?
Absolutely. A local attorney, and my friend, Brad R. Coppedge, Esq, writes many great blogs for his law firm, Hall Booth Smith, P.C. But in my opinion, one of the best ones he wrote was back in 2017. It was titled “8 Common Myths About Last Wills and Testaments”. In this blog he discusses eight common myths and the legal backing as to why each one of them are wrong, or mostly wrong!
In addition to this great article, we (Brookstone Wealth Management) will continue to provide articles around Estate Planning and Last Will and Testaments in hopes that we can someday save a family the grief that many have experienced. Check our website frequently to stay abreast with our great articles.
My Recent Experiences and Our Focus on Estate Planning / Last Will and Testaments
Each time I meet with a client, I ask about their Estate Plan. Do they have a Will, Living Will and Power of Attorney? If they did not have one in our previous meeting, I ask if one has been prepared since then. I try to get each client to understand the sense of urgency in listening to me and preparing these documents.
Just last month, it all hit home. In May 2019, I lost three friends / acquaintances within three weeks. One was a female age 49. The next two were a males age 51 and 52. Do you think any of them or their family thought they were going to die at the age of 49, 51 and 52? I am sure the answer is NO. But one died of an aneurysm and the other two of massive heart attacks.
None of these three were clients of mine, but after each death, my CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER (CFP®) hat went on, and I wondered:
- Did they have a Will?
- Were their affairs in order?
- Did they leave a mess for their families to pick up?
- Am I failing my clients by not mandating them having a Will, Living Will and Power of Attorney in place?
- Should I stay on them more to make sure they get these Estate documents in place?
It is a heavy burden to understand what needs to be done but to accept the fact that so many will not follow your guidance. All three of the Estate Planning documents are important, but recent experiences have us placing heavy emphasis on the Last Will and Testament.
What are some details about how a Last Will and Testament, or lack thereof, can impact your family?
If you have minor children, do you want a court to decide who will have custody of your children in the case of death? Probably not. That is what will most likely happen without a Last Will and Testament.
If you are married and you both die at the same time, who will take care of the children and the possible money that you leave behind for their care? Without a Will this will most likely be decided by the courts. This is a very scary proposition for most families.
If you are in a second marriage, have you made provisions in a Will addressing what your spouse can and cannot do with the house where the two of you live? Maybe your kids from a previous marriage could kick your new spouse out of their home? Will your spouse have to come up with cash to pay your kids from a previous marriage to stay in the house? Will said kids be restricted from their inheritance by the new spouse? These are questions that could be decided without your input if you do not plan accordingly.
Are you philanthropic minded and would rather see your money keep on giving? Or are you happy leaving it to estranged kids or family members? Maybe you want to leave a legacy through family but also leave money to charity. Without a Last Will and Testament, it’s probably not up to you.
There are many other questions that will be answered by the courts if you do not have a solid Estate Plan. For example:
- Do you own multiple homes in multiple states, and who will get those?
- Can you pass this property to heirs in the least costly way?
- Do you have certain property that you want to go to family members or friends?
- Do you own a business and want to make sure it stays up and running after your death?
- Who do you want to run the business?
So many questions and one right answer: A Last Will and Testament can address all the above and more. A properly designed Last Will and Testament can give you peace of mind that YOUR wishes will be carried out YOUR way after YOUR death.
A Will can shelter families from fights, court costs, and attorney fees that come along with battles over a deceased loved one’s estate. A Will is a small price to pay to save so much in the future. Proper planning can not only save your family money, but it could also save them from heartache as well! Don’t let death be a guessing game for your loved ones!
Why Brookstone Wealth Management?
Our approach to wealth management is rooted in the belief that every client is unique. That’s why our services don’t come out of a box. Our Certified Financial Planners (CFP®) work one-on-one, side-by-side with each and every client to craft a custom financial strategy that will help make their financial goals a reality.
Financial Planning is a journey, not a destination, and we are your trusted advisor every step of the way. Let us help you navigate your True North.