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As the son of a funeral director, it’s ironic for me to report that just about 60% of people who die each year do so without having a will. I’d argue that putting a will in place is probably the most procrastinated personal finance task that there is. Planning your next vacation is more complicated than establishing a simple will. Having your wishes put down in a legal document benefits your family when the time comes that your affairs need to be settled.

A will is designed for you to spell out who inherits your property, how they inherit it and who will represent your estate as the executor. The executor is the person that you have chosen to be in charge of settling your estate and final affairs.

What happens when you die without a Will?  The simple answer is the state that you live in becomes your executor and they settle your estate. This is called dying in “intestate” and the intestacy laws in your state will determine how your assets are distributed at your death. Now, I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want the state in control of my assets at my death.

Who needs a Will?  If you have assets, then you need a will. It can be argued that a younger person who is not married, without children and with very little assets probably does not need one. However, if you are a younger couple with children, then a will would be beneficial. It’s especially beneficial for those folks who are in their second marriages where children are involved from the first marriage. Nothing can divide a family quicker than when the second spouse inherits everything, and the children are left out.

Where do I get a Will?  To save money, some folks will go online to companies like LegalZoom and buy a boiler plate will which consists of basically just filling in the blanks. Now granted, this is better than no will, but I’d suggest you speak with an attorney who specializes in estate planning.

Why an attorney? Don’t stop at just a simple will, I’ve always suggested that most people need four other documents:

  • A Health Durable Power of Attorney
  • Financial Durable Power of Attorney
  • Living Will
  • HIPPA Release

And, depending on your assets, a Trust might be suggested. Many estate planning attorneys will have a package deal for all these items.

Why would you work your entire life, accumulate assets, die without a will and allow the state to come in make decisions for you? You really don’t want this happening.

Do you already have a will? When was the last time you reviewed it? If you have a will but haven’t checked it in 10 years, now is the time to review it. Most likely your assets have changed as well as the people and organizations in your life that you’d want to include.

If you don’t have a will, it’s time to go get one. No more excuses just get it done. As the son of a funeral director, I can tell you that money is the number one reason that families argue and fight when a parent passes away. Make sure this doesn’t happen with your family. Take the time to put your wishes down in a will to ensure your requests are abided by. This will make it easier for everyone. Your family will thank you for it when you’re gone.

Live free my friends,
Eric Gaddy

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Investment Advisory Services offered through Shankland Financial Advisors, LLC, Registered Investment Advisor