Aretha Franklin, beloved Queen of Soul, died in 2018 at the age of 76. At the time of her death her family believed she hadn’t written a will. As you can imagine, her estate was worth millions!
She was living in Detroit when she passed. Michigan law declares that her four sons would inherit a quarter of the estate, leaving them to decide the details among themselves.
But in a plot twist that was worthy of the big screen, her family discovered three handwritten wills. Two that were written in 2010 were locked away in a cabinet, and another from 2014 was found in a spiral notebook under a couch cushion.
The wills were a mess! They were full of illegible scribbles, cross-outs, notes along the margins and, written at the bottom, was a big happy face that was assumed to be her signature.
After the IRS sunk their teeth into the estate they found she owed at least $3 million in back taxes. Months and years have slowly crept by and her sons are spending their precious time and money squabbling with the courts to determine what is valid and what is not. They’ve paid for handwriting experts and multiple lawyers. The fees keep coming, yet no end is in sight.
“R-E-S-P-E-C-T” your family and write a valid, legal will!
It goes without saying that writing a will is a smart, responsible decision. However, for a variety of reasons, most people put it off or ignore it all together.
Some believe it’s too costly or difficult. Others feel it’s unnecessary because their possessions will automatically pass to their spouse or children. Perhaps they simply avoid thinking about their own death.
So let’s “demystify” wills and learn why they’re worth your time and effort!
What are the basic benefits of writing a will?
A will allows you to:
- Ensure that your possessions will be distributed as you wish.
If you die without a will, the state law decides how your estate will be distributed. Some property might be passed to a spouse or children…but not necessarily!
- Appoint a Trustee and/or Executor.
YOU get to decide who will oversee and manage the distribution of your estate. You can choose someone you know and trust which can give you tremendous peace of mind.
- Appoint a guardian for minor children.
In the event of the death of BOTH parents, a will legally places your minor children in the care of someone who you know and love.
- Expedite the legal process.
It’s generally faster and less expensive to settle an estate with a valid will. The less money you spend on legal fees means more money to pass on to your loved ones.
- Specify funeral wishes.
By including in your will any wishes you may have for your funeral, it ensures everything will be handled as you prefer. This can be a huge relief for your family during a difficult time.
- Reduce stress and heartache for loved ones.
The passing of a loved one can be tremendously stressful and emotional. During such a time, having your decisions and wishes clearly outlined reduces confusion and family disagreements
The 1-hour will
If you break down the simple, basic “ingredients” needed to create a will, the list is not long. It might only take one hour of your day to write out the basic, fundamental requirements of your will and create a solid legal document.
The bright minds at Legal Zoom created a handy 7-step outline titled “How to Write My Own Will”. The article explains, in simple terms, what is needed for each step to draft your own Last Will and Testament.
The basic steps it suggests are as follows:
- Step 1: Write an introduction
- Step 2: Select an executor
- Step 3: Identify your heirs
- Step 4: Name a guardian for any minor or dependent children
- Step 5: Assess and divide your property
- Step 6: Sign the Will
- Step 7: Ask a witness to sign the Will
As you can see, this is not complex and scary! Now, of course, this is an over-simplification of what’s involved, however for someone who is older with fewer assets and little property, the task can be very manageable.
For those with multiple assets, real estate, bank accounts, etc., the choice to use an Estate Lawyer is probably a wise one. They can guide you through the process to make sure all the “T’s” are crossed and “I’s” are dotted. You will pay more for an attorney, but in certain situations, it’s worth it!
Make it Happen!
Whether it’s for yourself or a loved one you’re caring for, creating a will is the right thing to do. The minimum age is 18 so both you and your parents easily qualify!!
Companies such as Legal Zoom provide downloadable legal documents as well as articles and support to help along the way. In today’s world, the process can be simple and easily accomplished!
Take a seat, take a deep breath, and write a Will…it’s a matter of R-E-S-P-E-C-T!!