When it comes down to the wire, there are only two types of people in this world. Those who have experienced the loss of a loved one who died with no will in place, and those who haven’t. People in the former group, given the opportunity, would gladly share stories with the latter group and plead with them to save time, money, headache, and possibly even family ties by having these simple and affordable legal documents in place.
The laws surrounding the belongings and assets of a deceased person have remain largely unchanged over the years. When you don’t leave clear, written instructions, the bottom line is that a court will have to decide how to distribute your money, stocks/bonds, insurance policy payout, furniture, vehicle, and even your debt in some cases. The greatest gift you can give your loved ones is the peace of mind that you have taken the time to make your wishes known and documented while you are of able mind and body so that no one has to fight over anything in the event of your passing.
The law does not give favor to the people in your life that may be closest to you at your time of death. Relationships have a way of evolving over the years, which is why some people find it necessary to update their will from time to time. Think about a friend or relative that you were close to ten years ago who you may have grown apart from. There are many documented stories that are easy to find online about estranged children coming back to claim their portion of their deceased parent’s estate, despite the fact that the deceased person would not have wanted that. Where there is a lack of documentation, the court then decides, which typically means the next of kin, even if that person has an adversarial relationship with their next of kin.
This New Year, make it your resolution to sit down with your spouse, partner, children, or companions and write out a list of your wishes. This initial process shouldn’t take more than an hour. During this time, simply decide who receives what in the event of your passing. From there, you can take this list to a trusted estate planning attorney and they will help to ensure that the correct legal language is used to separate different types of assets from one another. This process does not have to be a headache, and it is not a high dollar legal service. Give your loved ones the gift of planning.