What is a last will and testament? Everyone has heard those words and everyone knows that they’re important words. But, here’s a staggering statistic for you – 70% of Americans do not have a will.
Growing up, I often heard the term “will” or “last will and testament” usually on television or in adult conversations that I innocently overheard. My mother and my aunts or their friends held conversations in the hallway of our family house. I didn’t know what a will was but it seemed like adult business so I never really thought much about it.
The Last Will And Testament
As I grew older, I began to understand what a will is but thought only rich people had them to make sure all their money and expensive items went to their families after they passed on. I never thought a will would apply to “regular” people. I didn’t realize how significant that piece of paper was until several years ago. Now I see differently.
Will preparation is something that everyone is aware of but many people have not taken steps to address? A will is important not only to the rich but also to “regular” people.
So, why have a will?
My Personal Experience
After my mom died several years ago, the family went through her things and we saw how organized she was. We always knew she was particular about things as her room was always impeccably neat. Her drawers and closets were meticulously organized. Her shoes were in their original boxes uniformly stacked on the top shelf of her closet. She didn’t have much but she did have some things. She didn’t have a formal will but she had lists with items and who those items should go to.
The day before my mom died, we had a conversation as we often did those few weeks prior to her death. We spoke about my daughter who was going through some difficult times. I remember telling her how my daughter walked everyday in inclement weather to get her children to school. The school was located a good mile or so away and there were no buses. My mom looked me in the eye and said, “Well, she has a car now. That car outside is hers.”
It was my mom’s car and she wanted her granddaughter to have it, however, the car has been a sore subject ever since her death. There was nothing in writing and if it went to court, there is no proof that that was ever said, I had been reminded. The reality is that my mother did NOT write it down and so it sits in my brother’s garage. With all my mother’s organizational abilities, skills for being precise and meticulous, she neglected to put that one item in writing. My family meets at holiday parties, my mom’s birthday memorials, and other social events but we never talk about the car.
Leave Your Last Will And Testament Behind
The lesson here is that it is so important to have a will, to leave a last will and testament behind. Whether you are rich or not so rich, everyone has assets of some kind. You want to have a say as to where your assets go, don’t you?
These assets can come in the form of the hard-earned money you spent years saving, or your prized possession whether it be a car, a fur coat, jewelry, electronics or even a book you may have written. If there is nothing in writing indicating your wishes, the courts will decide. Your loved ones should have those assets and they can, if you get your will prepared now. It’s really like leaving them a love letter…the last one you’ll ever leave!
Many people mistakenly think that if they pass on, their children would automatically go to grandma, auntie or some other relative. But if your wishes are not documented, your children could very easily become wards of the state and not benefit from any of your assets. There can be nothing worse than being a child and stripped of the family members you know and love after losing your parent because your parent left nothing behind stating who he/she wanted to care for you. A will with your wishes clearly spelled out cannot be mistaken nor misunderstood and it could save your children further heartache and heartbreak.
Some Myths About What Happens After A Person Passes
So many people think that wills are for older people and that young people need not concern themselves about them. Unfortunately, no one knows when they may face death. It happens to the young and old alike. If you have assets and you have family, you must ensure that your family is the recipient of those assets, regardless of how old you are. But remember, if it is not in writing, it’s up for fighting. And you really don’t want your loved ones fighting long after you’re gone. That’s not the legacy you want to leave behind!
Did you know that if you’re married and have no children, your passing does not necessarily mean that your assets will go to your spouse? Depending on how large your assets are, family members may show up asking for a share of it. Yes, it happens all the time! The courts may give your spouse a portion and then a portion to your mother and father, if alive. Otherwise, brothers and/or sisters and even distant relatives may get a portion.
Another scenario is that your assets may just remain in legal system limbo. All what you worked so hard for! Having your will prepared now can keep your assets in the hands of the ones you love.
What if you pass on and you leave behind a business? Without a will, there are no guarantees about what will happen. Will your children be taken of? What will happen to the business? These are practical questions that will have no definite answers if you do not prepare in advance. Once you are gone, it is too late!
If you live with your boyfriend/girlfriend and there is no will and one of you pass on, did you know that your partner will get nothing…absolutely nothing?
Here are two common mistakes people often make. I was speaking to a young mother at a school event recently who told me, very shyly, that she hadn’t had her will done because she was afraid. The thought of preparing a piece of paper that would be used after her passing made her very uneasy. She didn’t want to think about it so she’s been putting it off. Big mistake!
Another woman told me, very proudly, that she prepared her own will by writing it out on a piece of paper. big mistake! At least, for her, an attempt was made but when doing it this way, go the extra step. Writing a will without a lawyer is a route many people take, however, a qualified estate lawyer should review whatever you prepare. They know the law and how it can impact the items in your will both positively as well as negatively.
These are only some of the things you must consider right now. It won’t matter who said what or when it was said. Words won’t hold up in court. If you have a will either prepared by an attorney or reviewed by one, there is clarity, there is direction. No questions, no problems, no stress.
So, do yourself and your loved ones a favor, write them a love letter. Get your will prepared now. Don’t delay! That piece of paper carries so much weight. It could be the difference between years of peace and turmoil for the ones you leave behind.
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