By Deacon Michael Shumway
In years of traveling around the country and chatting with people, young and old, about planned giving, I always start out with a discussion of the individual’s needs. The quote in the title of this post is one I’ve heard hundreds of times, from people of all ages.
The reality is that we all associate having a will with being old… and none of us is willing to even think about being old. We also tend to shy away from thinking about having an “estate.” After all, estates are what rich people have.
But here’s the hard truth, if you have a checking or savings account (no matter the size), if you own a car or a house or any durable asset, and most importantly, if you have children, then you have an estate.
If you are alive today, then the reality is that someday you will die. We all hope that day is far in the future, but none of us can foresee accidents and unexpected illness.
So, what does all that mean? Having a will means that you control what happens to whatever you leave behind. First and foremost, you can designate who will care for your minor children. If you do not leave such instructions in a legal will, then the state will make those decisions and there is NO GUARANTEE that the state will make the same decisions you would have. Don’t have kids, but you have pets? The same thing applies. A will lets you decide who takes the dog or cat and cares for them.
Do you have a house? What happens to it if one day you don’t return? With a will, you get to make that decision and many others about whatever you may have.
So, assuming that I’ve convinced you that a will is a good idea, you might still be thinking that you can’t afford, and don’t have time, to see an attorney. Talk to friends, family, co-workers, etc. Many will have recommendations for attorney’s you might speak with. Having an attorney draw up your will is always a good idea. Yes, there are internet sites that provide templates, etc., but the reality is that none of those sites can tailor your will to fit the laws of your state. An attorney knows your state laws and knows the right questions to ask that will allow you to make really good decisions. It doesn’t need to be expensive, but it is always worth the time and money to work with an attorney.
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