What do Abraham Lincoln, Howard Hughes, Pablo Picasso, Michael Jackson, and Arethra Franklin all have in common? They all died intestate. That’s not a disease. It means they died without a will.
Lincoln was not only the President of the United States, he was a lawyer so you would have thought he would have known better. Of course, he didn’t know he was going to be assassinated, which illustrates the fact that none of us know when our time will be up. All the more reason to have a will in place.
Howard Hughes was a billionaire and again you would think he’d have a will to protect his assets and assure they were managed according to his wishes. Nope. The courts had to step in after he died and manage it for him. After a protracted legal battle, his fortune was eventually divided between 22 cousins.
Picasso also left behind a sizable fortune that included artworks, property, gold, cash, and bonds. Again, without a will, the courts had to intervene, taking six years to sort out a settlement.
Both Jackson and Franklin died without wills leaving both their families and musical managers with a legal mess not to mention the emotional turmoil caused when family members and others begin arguing over who is entitled to what.
Each of these cases serves as a cautionary tale. Don’t die without a will.
Fortunately, preparing a will is not that difficult. You have two choices: you can either do it yourself or hire a lawyer to take you through the process. Before you opt for the DIY approach, be warned that it may not be your best option. What’s free up front may cost you later. If your financial situation is fairly simple and straightforward, then you may find writing up your own will a good solution. Will templates and guides can be found on numerous websites and in stationery stores or decent book shops. As long as you fill them out correctly and have them properly signed by witnesses (and notarized if your local laws require), your Executor is likely to be able to carry out your wishes without problems.
However, problems can arise when the legal guidelines are not followed or when the will has not been properly updated to reflect changing circumstances. While I personally recommend the DIY approach to educate yourself about the process, I urge people to hire a lawyer or estate management expert. While you will have to pay for their services, you can save time and money by knowing what you want and how to ask questions. Lawyers also know the tax implications that can save you money in the long run. I mean, who would you rather perform surgery on you? A friend or a properly-trained surgeon?
Whether you’re single, married with children, or a widow/widower, a will is an important part of end-of-life planning. And just because you’re young and imagine death to be some far-off fantasy, it still pays to be prepared for the unexpected. Sadly, I imagine the current pandemic has seen many people die intestate, causing their loved ones additional agony on top of the grief they’ll already be experiencing. Think of a will as a gift of love to help make their grief journey a little easier to bear knowing that your wishes are being carried out as you had wanted.
Put getting a will done on your “to-do” list this week. And if you already have a will, check that it’s up-to-date. Life has a way of changing, often in ways we don’t expect. Make sure your will reflects those changes. That way, everyone can rest in peace and get on with living a happy and healthy life.
Since laws vary from one country/state to another, it’s not possible to direct you to one particular resource. Instead, I’ve offered a selection of sites relative to four different countries. Begin with the one in your country or Google “making a will” and search for the relative resource for your area.