This is not the most exciting or thrilling topic, but it is an IMPORTANT one. I recently read this Forbes article: “Americans Lack Basic Estate Plans.” The part I want to point out though does not have to do with estate plans, but about the part that says:
“Even if there are no end of life questions, you need at least a basic will to make sure the right person gets your assets. Most couples without estates big enough to be taxable write “I love you” wills leaving everything to each other. But if a husband or wife dies without a will, the surviving spouse inherits everything in only 16 states.”
Fascinating. Did you know that? I did not.
After doing a bit of research it looks like it is called, the “Uniform Probate Code” and these are the 16 states: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah. So if you are not in one of these 16 states it might be worthwhile to look into what the estate laws are for your state. I know I will be!
When each of my parents died, neither of them had a will, health insurance, life insurance, or a living will. My sister, brother, and I had to figure out what to do about funeral arrangements, how to pay for their bills, and deal with their remaining belongings. When my grandma died, she did have a will, but it was very outdated. It still had disbursement going to my mother who had been gone more than 10 years before her. The way her will was set up and worded meant that we spent a few years in probate, ending up in a very large portion of her estate going to probate fees, lawyer fees, and the bank (she had the bank as one of the executors of her will). Bank as executor = lots of lost money. The bank has to sign a lot of the paperwork and they do it in their own time, while charging a monthly fee. It was a mess, and a long, drawn out process that took a few years.
I have heard good reviews that you can go to LegalZoom to have a will put together inexpensively online. If you do not have a will, take the steps now to do so. Especially if you have children!