When do you need a will? The short answer is now. You see, we acquire “stuff” gradually, over time, but death can come suddenly, in the blink of an eye, at any moment. While I believe spiritually death is a change, as far as your worldly presence goes, death is final, permanent and irreversible. You need to be ready, in every way, now.
The truth is, in effect you already have a will, it’s just not the one you likely want. You see, in Ohio, Indiana and most other states, the Probate court system provides a way to handle your “stuff” when you die if you don’t have a will. But…it’s designed to be good for the state and the lawyers involved, as well as your nearest kin, and perhaps in that order! It gives you no control, doesn’t know who you love and don’t, or anything about your true wishes.
So if you want to decide who gets what and when you need a will at the very least. The table below shows some situations that are common, how critical a will is at that stage, and why.
|You have no assets & no one depends on you.||Low||You don’t own a home or other property, have much if any money or savings or anything else for that matter. There simply isn’t anything to give to others.|
|You have a spouse or significant other.||High||While your adult spouse may be able to take care of themselves, you need to show them in death the love you feel for them when alive. Without a will, they may not get all your assets and it surely won’t be automatic. Especially if you are not legally married.|
|You have significant assets or particular assets you want to go to particular people.||Very High||This situation creeps up on people because we don’t suddenly have stuff. We acquire “stuff” gradually over time|
|You have a child or other dependent.||Critical||Without a will the court will appoint a guardian. It may not be a person you love or trust. Your highest responsibility is to turn that child into a good adult who will turn their children into good adults.|
|You have multiple dependents and significant assets.||Critical ++||In this case you certainly need to do Estate Planning or you risk dividing your happy family for years and years. There is a saying “You don’t know someone till you live with them.” I think it is better said as “You don’t know someone till you divide an inheritance with them”.|
Estate Planning is so much more than having a will. It is also something that requires a lawyer, but you probably should also get some simple advice that includes your insurance agent and any other trusted advisor. My experience has been that even the best of lawyers often aren’t good at deciphering the basics of what a person wants. A good advisor will start by outlining what it is you want to happen and for whom. Only when that is done should you start to worry about the legalities. The lawyer may need you to “finesse” some of your plans but your wishes should guide the process, not the legalities.
These are just a few things Estate Planning can accomplish that a will cannot.
- Avoid most probate expenses. Everything that is handled by your will must go through the probate process. Generally the cost of this 5% of the assets handled. That can really add up and a little Estate Planning can avoid that.
- Equalize Inheritance & Keep Family Assets In The Family. Often families have something like a farm or business. If you just divide it among heirs some may want to get the money and others want the actual asset. With Estate Planning you can give the farm or business to those who truly want it and use life insurance or other assets to give other heirs an inheritance of equal value. This is often what keeps a family acting like a family!
- Take care of people for years to come. Lets face it, if you give a young person a lot of assets they will often live like they hit the jackpot and lose most of what they inherited. Estate planning gives you the ability to space payments out over several years or even a lifetime so people can make a mistake, learn from it, and do better the next time.
If you would like to discuss this futher or need a referral to some estate planning experts, just give us a call.