10 Excuses for Not Having A Will
- Excuse #1: "I don't own very much."
- Excuse #2: "My spouse will get everything anyway, which is what I want."
- Excuse #3: "We own everything jointly."
- Excuse #4: "We can't decide on a guardian."
- Excuse #5: "We've decided on guardians, but need to check with them first." (Ditto for executor)
- Excuse #6:"Things are about to change. I'm about to: (get married, get divorced, have a(nother) child, move to another state, buy a house...)."
- Excuse #7: "I can't decide whether my teenagers will need a trust."
- Excuse #8: "I'm embarrassed about witnesses."
- Excuse #9: "I don't know what lawyer to go see."
- Excuse #10: "I don't know how much a will will cost."
Every adult ought to have an up-to date will. Most of us know that. Yet three quarters of us don't have one. Older people are more likely to have wills than younger ones but a majority of people die intestate--without a will. That is not always a tragedy, but it sometimes is, and it's always a mistake. Here are some of the excuses people often give for not making a will:
Excuse #1: "I don't own very much."
You probably own more than you realize. If you've recently done a net worth statement (a list of what you own and what you owe) you've probably found that out. If you haven't, it can be an eye-opener to see how much you have accumulated. A net worth statement is desirable information, not only in preparing a will but in preparing for a legal check-up. See the accompanying box for a reminder list of items to include.
But even if you do have relatively little, somebody is going to get that property when you die. Why shouldn't you decide who? And if you don't decide whom you want to oversee your affairs, a court will have to appoint someone. And that person will have to pay a bond.
If you have minor children, the most important reason for making a will is to select a guardian for them should you and your spouse, if any, be killed at the same time. Surely you have preferences among the members of your families. Can you trust a judge to reach the right decision? Guardianship fights can be nasty. And what sort of "last impression" of you would such a mess convey?
Excuse #2: "My spouse will get everything anyway, which is what I want."
Not so, if you have children or grandchildren. You spouse will get only part of your estate.
Yes, usually, if you never had children. You can't be sure without checking the law in your home state and any other state where you own real estate.
What if you both die at once? Shouldn't you say what should happen to your property then?
And why should your spouse have to pay a bond? The law requires it unless you specify otherwise in a will.
Excuse #3: "We own everything jointly."
While it's very common for houses, bank accounts and vehicles to be jointly owned, that's seldom true for household furnishings, collections, etc. And are your sure about the vehicles and bank accounts? The life insurance?
Excuse #4: "We can't decide on a guardian."
It can be a tough decision. Each of the possibilities has strengths and weaknesses. There are so many factors to consider: age and health, resources and energy, character and values, personalities, geography, etc. It could be one of the most important decisions you'll ever make. It could create some friction among your relatives. But shouldn't you decide instead of a judge? You know your children and your relatives an awful lot better.
Excuse #5: "We've decided on guardians, but need to check with them first." (Ditto for executor)
This sounds good, but how long have you been meaning to check with them? You say you meant to last year at Christmas but the "right time" didn't occur? You want to discuss it in person but don't know when you'll see them next because they're a thousand miles away? Stop procrastinating and call or write this week. Then get that will drawn.
Excuse #6: " Things are about to change. I'm about to: (get married, get divorced, have a(nother) child, move to another state, buy a house...)."
Life is full of changes, and big ones like those mentioned might very well affect your will. It's a good idea to review your will after every major change in your life situation to see if the written will still expresses your current wishes. But except for a very short period of time, you shouldn't let an impending change stop you from making a will. You can change your will any time you want, but you can't write one after you die.
Excuse #7: "I can't decide whether my teenagers will need a trust."
The safe course is to provide for a trust now. You can always change your will if you later decide that yours are among the few 18 year olds who can be trusted with large amounts of money, especially after the tragedy of your (premature) demise. Unless you have a will and provide otherwise your child probably will be entitled to his share of your estate, in cash, when he turns 18. Some car dealer may be grateful for your neglect.
Excuse #8: "I'm embarrassed about witnesses."
One advantage of having a law firm do your will is that it can furnish your witnesses. You don't want beneficiaries as witnesses; it might be embarrassing to have non-beneficiary relatives (though you needn't reveal the contents of your will to the witnesses); and you don't want to impose on friends. Signing at your lawyer's office avoids this problem.
Excuse #9: "I don't know what lawyer to go see."
This firm would be happy to draft your will for you. We have considerable experience in this area and are eager to provide this important preventive law service.
Excuse #10: "I don't know how much a will will cost."
Surveys show that people frequently overestimate the cost of a will. The cost varies depending on the complexity of your estate, but simple wills can cost less than $100. We'll be happy to quote you a fee. Be assured that whatever it is, it's a small price to pay for the peace of mind that comes from doing what you should.
(Bonus) Excuse #11: "But I LIKE feeling guilty."
Oh, come on. Wouldn't you rather feel guilty about something more fun, or delicious, and with less serious consequences?