Every adult should have a Last Will & Testament but, for a variety of reasons, most people do not. Furthermore, of those people who do have a Will, most are not reviewed regularly or kept up-to-date. This article seeks to demonstrate the risks of not having a legal Last Will and Testament.
What should every adult have, but nearly three quarters do not? The answer-an up-to-date Last Will and Testament.
Most people do not have a legal Will because of these top 10 excuses--
1. "It's obvious who will get my possessions anyway."
This is perhaps the most dangerous misconception. Although there are provincial and state rules for the distribution of an estate if someone dies without a Will (intestacy laws), they are different for each state and province.
For example, in a seemingly simple case, if everything is to pass to your spouse, you may not realize that without a Will, you've left your loved one with a messy legal process which is many times more complicated and expensive than preparing a Will. Even if your entire estate was to pass to your spouse, what would happen if both of you were involved in a common accident?
Preparing a Will, and making your spouse the Executor and sole beneficiary allows them to access your assets smoothly and quickly. Procrastinating on creating a Will based on this excuse is handing off a legal nightmare to your loved ones.
2. "I don't have much, so there's nothing worth fighting over."
This could indeed be the case if you were writing your Will to come into effect today, but a Will is written to take effect sometime in the future. (Hopefully, the very distant future.) Events change, financial circumstances change. Take as an example, what if you were killed as a result of a negligent industrial accident? Your estate could be worth much more than it is right now. In reality, you have no idea how much your estate will be worth when you die, even if you were to die today.
3. "I'll be gone, so why do I care what happens to my estate?"
You have a simple choice in this matter. You can leave your estate to people or charities that mean something to you, or let the government decide how to distribute your estate. If you have no living relatives, the government will keep the money for themselves. You have an opportunity to do something meaningful for your friends, family, loved ones or society in general. Surely, that is preferred to handing the control of your assets over to the government.
4. "Everyone knows what I want to happen to my estate."
It's amazing to see how close families can be driven apart when attempting to work together to divide an estate. It is unlikely that siblings' financial situations and motives will be completely aligned -- one may want to sell items to raise cash, others may be sentimentally attached to heirlooms. Worse, some may help themselves to parts of the estate without getting approval from others. Time and time again, seemingly stable families have broken down over the division of an estate.
5. "I don't need a Will until I'm older."
It is unlikely that we will know when death is imminent. There is absolutely no advantage to waiting to prepare your Will, but countless advantages to taking care of it now. Using convenient online services, it is possible to have a legal Will in your hands in 30 minutes, so the idea of holding off for a more appropriate time really just doesn't make sense.
6. "It is too expensive."
Yes, it can be. Writing a Will using the services of a lawyer can cost hundreds of dollars. Moreover, each time a Will needs to be updated, the cost is often the same as drawing up a new Will.
These costs can make the process of preparing and keeping your Will current (to reflect any changes in your personal or financial position), prohibitively expensive for most people. At a minimum, it is recommended that a Will be reviewed each year to ensure that beneficiaries are still alive, and that the possessions listed in the Will are still a part of your estate.
What many people don't know is that there is no legal requirement to use the services of a legal professional to prepare a Last Will and Testament.
7. "Finding a lawyer is just not convenient."
Again, this can be true. Procrastination can be one of our biggest enemies, especially when it comes to something as important as writing a Will. Plus, booking an appointment at a time that is convenient for a lawyer may not be a convenient time for you, particularly if you want to prepare Wills for other family members at the same time. There is also a danger that as soon as you step out of the office, something else comes to mind -- another person or another asset, and then you have to book a follow up appointment to make a change (hopefully this new appointment with the lawyer will be free!).
8. "I did mine years ago, it's taken care of."
When major life events occur you will want to update your Will. This likely means yet another appointment with the lawyer, and maybe even another one a few weeks later.
The advantage of preparing your Will with an interactive online service is that you can typically store your document securely under a user ID and Password, with which you can login at any time, day or night, from anywhere, print off a new version, sign the document in front of witnesses, to create a new, up-to-date legal Will.
Some online services even include a year of updates free of charge so you don't have to complete your Will all at once. Many times a person has gone to a lawyer's office to draw up a Will with a good idea of their assets and beneficiaries and is then asked to name guardians for their children. If they weren't expecting that question, it's not something that they would want to decide on a whim. It requires a great deal of thought and discussion with friends and relatives, resulting in another follow-up appointment with the lawyer!
9. "I used one of those kits, so everything is in place."
You have every right to prepare your own Will. However, starting to write a Will on a blank piece of paper is not advised and can lead to serious legal issues when the document is finally probated (settled with the courts). This is the reason why many legal Will kits available in stationery stores have been so widely criticized -- not for what they include, but for what they omit. Most of them are not much better than a blank sheet of paper, but worryingly they convey a peace of mind to the purchaser who thinks they have a legally enforceable Will.
10. "I'm not good at that type of thing, the whole process is just too intimidating."
Fortunately, there are services available on the Internet that fit comfortably between the use of common Will kits and the hiring of professional legal advice. These services are somewhat akin to the use of tax preparation software. Preparing your taxes with a blank form is difficult with no checks and balances, but not all of us require a professional accountant. Interactive online software is a very suitable middle ground for many people. These services step visitors through a series of structured questions with online help throughout. Based on your individual responses, they then create a personalized, legal Will based on the same clauses used by lawyers in solicitors' offices throughout the country. Although it is not intended as a substitute for legal advice, an individual with straightforward needs may not require professional consultation. And at about one tenth the cost, it makes the process of creating a Will far more affordable than ever before.
By now, you should be convinced that everybody should have a legal Will. It is irresponsible not to have one, no matter what your personal circumstance. Given the tools available today that make the process far more accessible and less intimidating than making an appointment with a lawyer, you shouldn't have any more excuses.