Even though end of life issues will affect every single one of us at some point, almost a third of Americans have no will outlining their wishes. While speaking candidly with a friend who works for a large hospital system here in Lafayette, he said that at a benefits meeting about his company life insurance, the Human Resources manager explained that 66% of employees had no beneficiary listed for their life insurance benefits that they pay for out of each paycheck.
We obviously don’t want our hard-earned money to end up tied up indefinitely, in the wrong hands, or turned over to the state, but we still seem to struggle with making excuses to avoid this important part of adulthood. For less than a week’s salary, one time, you can permanently provide your family with peace of mind in the form legal documents prepared by an Estate Planning Attorney that will protect you. Still not convinced? Here are three local stories that outline what can go wrong.
Relationships Vs. Family
Legally, even if you don’t get along with your blood relatives at all, they have a claim to your property before a non-relative does, even if that unrelated person is your partner or best friend. Recently, an Acadiana man suddenly found himself terminally ill, and did not have a succession plan in place. His girlfriend was his primary caregiver and had been by his side every step of the way through his substantially difficult sickness.
He had only one living relative, an estranged son whom he hadn’t seen in 13 years. Though he and his girlfriend had been together for 15 years, they had never married, and she felt as though the family would suspect her of trying to claim his inheritance if she married him immediately before his death. Their lack of a proper plan in writing caused her to be kicked out of the home she shared with her partner for over a decade when he died, even though she was his primary caregiver. The son simply took all of his father’s money and told her to find another place to live. A $500 will would have protected the dying man’s true wishes to provide for his partner and caregiver without having to marry her.
Sudden Death, Long Term Problems
An area man ended his own life mere weeks before the pandemic began in February of 2020. He had a newborn due just two weeks after his death. Even though he was legally married and he and his wife had no prenuptial agreement, they did both keep separate checking accounts. Her name was not on his checking account, so at the time of his death, she was unable to access any of their money. A simple succession plan would have provided a trust for his children and allowed his wife to have unfettered access to their own money. More than a year later, this matter is still tied up in court.
A Wrongful Inheritance
A successful, divorced Lafayette businessman passed away recently, leaving behind assets and cash worth over $3 million. His only living relative was a 19 year old son who was known by friends and family to have lost his father’s trust over the years after a series of poor choices and behavior associated with drugs and criminal activity. Because the man had no contingency plan, the son inherited his fathers millions, overdosed less than a year after his father’s death, and was found with less than $20,000 of his father’s money left. Even if you don’t have millions to leave behind, you certainly never want to see your money fall into the hands of someone who could use it to harm themselves or others.
Planning your estate does not have to be expensive or time consuming. At a minimum, you can sign a few documents at our office just to make sure that your existing benefits find their way to a loved one. Remember, it isn’t only death that can cause difficult issues to arise from not having a will. If you are unconscious, terminally ill, brain dead, or otherwise alive but unable to communicate, a will can prevent your family from getting into hard conversations during what already amounts to a difficult time.