Do I need a will? This question has only one quick response. Yes. The truth is that there is no age or wealth requirement on those who need a will. Everyone needs a will and the sooner the better. Life is full of unexpected consequences and preparation can make all difference when life throws us a curve ball.
I talked to a dear friend this morning. Her thirty-eight year old daughter-in-law passed away yesterday. Two weeks ago they found the daughter-in-law had lung cancer. She was taken to the hospital and has been in intensive care ever since. Yesterday morning the children were allowed a couple of hours to tell their mom good-bye. In the afternoon, her husband held her as she passed. I am so saddened by this situation. This young husband is left alone in life to care for five small children. I hardly know what to say to comfort my friend.
Suppose you had met my friend and her delightful daughter-in-law a few weeks ago. If both had asked you, “Do I need a will?” You probably would have told my friend she would need one, but you may have hesitated about what to tell her daughter-in-law. That would have seemed to be the logical conclusion. My friend was older. She has a nice estate and she is the type who takes care of things. Unfortunately life isn’t always logical. We never know when life will end.
Maybe you don’t even think to ask, “Do I need a will?” But deep inside you know you need a will. We all think we know what a will is. In our minds we may picture the reading of a will. The family gathered together to hear the bequests. So we tend to think that those who have nothing to bequest do not need a will. Let’s face it, a young couple with five children usually have few material assets. What would they bequest?
One of the first things I told my friend is that as soon as things settle down, this young husband needs to take care of his estate planning. He shouldn’t ask, “Do I need a will.” He will need a will to name the guardians for his minor children. This is an important step to take. If he passes away, the children will go to whoever the court appoints as guardians. Picking a guardian is an important gift to your children.
A will can be written to put qualifications on the potential guardians. Perhaps my friend’s son would want to name her as the guardian. She is a healthy woman and could probably do it. But say my friend’s son names her as the guardian and ten years later when he dies, she is bedridden in a rest home? Obviously this would be a problem. The children would end up before a judge without a guardian and the husband’s intent would be frustrated.
If the will is well made, the son could give alternative provisions, such as “Mom, provided that she has the health to take care of my children.” Or maybe, “My single brother provided he has married and has settled down.”
If you have been asking yourself, “Do I need a will?” You now know the answer. Estate planning is important, but doing it correctly is even more important. My book, Protecting Your Financial Future,” walks you through all the necessary parts of estate planning. It will help insure that you get the result you desire. You will get it done and get it done right.