Why Do You Not Have A Will?

I know that this is a topic that most people avoid. I mean seriously... who wants to talk about death? Personally the thought of losing Mr. NtJS makes it hard for me to breath and my eyes well up in less then 30 seconds of the first thought. How could I even think about losing him?

The first step is to realize that if you really do love your spouse, kids, pets, and extended family and friends, then you need a will. It does not matter if you are rich or broke. You need a will.

Getting a will together is not as daunting of a task as one might think. If you are like most people, and are not super rich, a basic will you find online for your specific state should work just fine. Now, if you are rich or have a very complicated estate plan you would like to set up then please do seek advise from a professional. The online wills are basic word docs that you fill in the blanks for things like your name, who gets the money, who gets the kids, etc. Then you just print it, take it along with two witnesses to a notary to sign it. The witnesses can be anyone, a couple coworkers or neighbors work just fine.

You never know when you and your loved ones might be in a car accident or have a brain aneurysm at a young age. The last thing you want is for your grieving family to fight over who raises your kids or where to bury you. Just let them grieve in peace.

We've seen numbers all over the board here - 40%, 70% - the fact is that far too many people die without a will. If you fall into this group (those without a will), here is what will happen to your possessions:

  1. Spouse with rights of survivorship receive joint property (real-estate, bank accounts), decedents divide up other property. -OR-
  2. Your state of residence takes over via intestate succession laws - those vary from state to state.
Some folks argue that you don't need a will and that these laws will automatically do what you would have already done. Lets assume for just a minute that your state government is intelligent, well run and that the folks handling this stuff actually do it according to the law. Is that how you want your possessions divided? According to the default laws of where you happen to live? Also, after the all state-determined heirs, unclaimed property goes to .... ta-daaaa - The State! Not your favorite charity, not your friends, not your poker buddies - The State. I'll take a wild guess that very very very few people, if given a choice (and you do have a choice), would leave ANYTHING to the state. So maybe relying on these laws would fall under 'bad ideas'. See the map at the bottom of this page from CCH to see the laws in your area. AARP also discusses how many folks just assume that everything goes to the surviving spouse. Again, not the case.

Now while you are making that will, the other document that you need is a living will (also known as an advance healthcare directive). Who should get to say if Terri Schivo lives or dies? Her husband? Her parents? The State of Florida? How about none of the above. If you remember this well publicized ordeal from a few years ago, you'll recall people from across the country weighing in on this one. Its none of their business. Or at least it shouldn't have been. Terry and her husband made it everyone's business by NOT filling out a living will. Had they have done this, you would have likely never heard the name "Terri Schivo". A living will simply states your wishes, and the course of treatment you would prefer if you are unable to do so due to illness or injury. Everyone needs one of these. Or else, it could be you being kept alive by machines with friends, family, politicians and legal analysts arguing over whether to pull the plug or not. Not a pretty picture.

Why have you not done this? What is stopping you from doing this?

We filled ours out a few years ago, but we have a confession to make. Check in next week to see what it is.


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