By Cass Grange, Senior Advisor Associate and Director of Business Development
Out of all the discussions I have with clients, the question: “Do you have a will?” brings up the most angst and the most excuses.
- I am too young to have a will. Take it from me, you are not as young as you used to be. Many people have the notion that you need to wait until right before you die to write a will. There are several problems with this logic. The last time I checked, you don’t know when you are going to die. Secondly, if you are sick and dying, you may be too preoccupied to write a will, or you might be mentally incapacitated. You are not too young. The time is right.
- My spouse and I cannot agree on a guardian for our children. This is a sticking point for many couples. I tell people that you are never going to write the names down of someone or a couple who you think will do as good of a job raising your kids as you do. Period. It isn’t a discussion that you will probably feel great about, but you need to discuss it and come to a decision. Otherwise, a judge who does not know you or your children gets to decide their fate. Also, remember that you can change your mind on this later. You may pick out a different aunt as the guardian of your teenagers than you did when you had one baby. That is okay. This does not have to be your last will, which leads to my next point.
- I can only write one will, and I want it to be correct- that is why they call it LAST WILL and Testament. True, that is what it is titled, but take the pressure off yourself. You can rewrite or add to it or change it at any time. Wills should be revisited as your family grows and changes, as the tax laws change and as your estate grows.
- It takes too much time to write a will and have it signed and I am too busy.Think about this. You spend on average 45 years working 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year. That is 90,000 hours of your life working. You can’t spend 3 hours thoughtfully thinking about what you would like to do with the financial wealth you have accumulated from investing 90,000 hours of time? You spend a lifetime building up your assets, take the time to carefully plan your legacy for the next generation.
- I am waiting for _____________ ( new tax laws, my baby to be born, my kids to leave home, my house to be sold, my boyfriend to marry me.) The perfect moment is now. The moment of clarity on all issues will never arrive. Your circumstances are guaranteed to change and you can update your will later.
- I will be dead so I don’t care. I have had people tell me this. What they often mean is, “This topic is too painful to discuss.” I think it is hard for all of us to think about dying, but this is your last letter to your family. It should reflect your values and your beliefs. Often lawyers and planners only focus on the tax part of estate planning, and that is a mistake. You need to think about what is most important in your life and have that be a part of the plan.
- I have printed it up, but I haven’t signed it yet. You probably haven’t signed it because you are not confident it will work or meet your needs. Many people are reluctant to hire an estate planning attorney when they can down load documents online and fill them out. I would argue that a great estate planning lawyer does much more than draft documents. This advisor, along with your investment advisor, will ask you thoughtful questions about what you would like to do with your legacy. She can point out pitfalls and advantages of certain structures. She will talk you through the steps and help you execute them. And, we can help make sure that your retirement accounts and life insurance beneficiaries also work with your estate plan.