The weekend before Thanksgiving, my husband and I thought it would be fun to go do a 10k at the Living History Farms in Des Moines, IA. After wading through waist deep creeks and climbing up hills so steep and covered in mud that we had to use ropes staked in the ground, my husband joked to me on the walk back to the car, “I upped my life insurance online before we started the race, so call Brett (our insurance guy) if I don’t make it back to the car.”
Since nothing is certain in life except death and taxes, we should all probably prepare for both. We’ll talk taxes after the new year. But for now, you (yes you) should be thinking about how to prepare for you or your spouse’s passing even though that may not be a reality for many years. Maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t have much, so I don’t need a will”. Or you might just be thinking there’s no rush, you have plenty of time to get a will done. But don’t let those two excuses cause your loved ones time, money, and stress after you’re gone.
To my friends who think, “I don’t have much, so I don’t need a will”; here’s why you’re wrong. If you don’t make a plan for what happens to your property after you pass away, regardless of how inconsequential you may think your property is, the state will enact the plan it has written for you. The state will then decide where your property goes without taking into account your personal preference, the needs of the family members you left behind, or whether or not one of your family members will have their entire share garnished because of indebtedness. Why let that happen when you have the power to make the final decisions about your property and the ones you love? Additionally, there’s a common misconception that if you don’t have a will, your family won’t have to go through probate. But in reality, if you own real property or are the parent or legal guardian of minor children, probate cannot be avoided. If your estate is going to be forced into the probate system for either of those reasons, make sure your real property goes to a person you choose, and your minor children receive a designated guardian who can provide care and protect the personal property they inherit.
To my friends who think there’s plenty of time to create your will; you’re right. You have plenty of time. Until you don’t. Don’t put off your will or estate plan until it’s too late because you or your spouse pass away or because you or your spouse become incompetent and cannot complete a plan. Some of you reading are probably like me; somewhere near 30 looking at a long life ahead. If that’s your reality; wonderful. But in the same way many of us purchased life insurance to protect our spouse and children in the event we can no longer provide, you should also create an estate plan for your family’s protection. Perhaps some of you reading are of another generation, but you’ve never taken the time to have a will put in place. You probably have many long years ahead of you too. But regardless of age, career, or financial position; now is the time to think about the ones you love, and I would be happy to help.