It is pretty common knowledge that over half of the U.S. Population does not have a will, or other estate plan in place. You have heard these statistics before, I am sure. You may also know people in this situation or can at least imagine yourself in this category, too.
I know from experience that families who do not have any type of estate planning will face extra legal expenses, and even have difficulties in accessing funds to pay for funeral expenses.
Don’t let that be you.
I also know from experience that some of you may have gone online to LegalZoom or other similar sites that will provide you with a “State Specific Will”. So the Shakespearean question is this….”To ZOOM, or not to ZOOM”.
I will share with you that it is better than nothing, however you may be missing several issues related to your personal situation that can only be identified when discussing with a board-certified Estate Planning attorney. There are unfortunately plenty of negative outcomes that can result from not having a will or trust as your estate plan.
Recently I met with a client who did not have a will and he asked me, “Michael, what happens to my things if I die without a will?” I informed him what the Texas State Legislature’s estate plan was going to be the plan for him if he didn’t create his own will. The government’s estate plan, however was not how he wanted to distribute his estate. An example of the potential for problems is, if you are married and all of your children are not also your spouse’s children, then your spouse keeps their 1/2 of the community property and your children get the other half of your community property. This might not be the way you want things to go, because it causes tension, disagreement, anger and frustration for all involved.
YOU should decide how you distribute your estate, not the government…and this is one reason why.
A long time client that I had been continually pleading with to do his will, died unexpectedly the day before payroll for his business. He was the only signer on the checkbooks. He had no will, trust or other estate plan in place, and as a result his wife had to pay over $5,000 just to get a court order authorizing her to sign payroll checks. This does not include all of the other probate matters that ensued and the attorneys fees and court cost continued to add up.
With proper estate planning, this nightmare could have been avoided for his family.
I ask that you not let another day go by that you leave the matter of your estate unattended. Do not leave a mess for your family to deal with when you die. They will have enough on their minds with the grief of your loss, don’t add to their burden by not having planned ahead for their benefit.