Don’t let these factors hold you back from creating a will
By ATB Wealth 2 March 2021 4 min read
The recent tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman shocked many of his fans. This young and promising actor privately battled colon cancer for four years before his death.
Given his long battle, it came as a surprise to many that Chadwick did not leave a last will and testament upon his death. Leaving many asking, how could Chadwick not have prepared a will?
Like many other popular culture icons, Chadwick is not alone in dying intestate, or dying without will. Prince, Aretha Franklin, Amy Winehouse, Bob Marley and Kurt Cobain all died without a will. These accomplished entertainers had family members depending on them, and teams of professionals supporting their careers, yet these performers did not have a legal document that outlined their wishes upon death.
In recent months, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of will planning as lawyers and on-line resources have experienced an increase in requests for such planning. While more people are preparing wills, estimates suggest that only about 50% of the population has a will. In addition, many of those who have a will acknowledge that the document no longer meets their intentions.
The question is why? Why, when the inevitable is before us, do so many not engage in compressive estate and will planning? The reasons vary, but here are a few things that may be holding people back from taking the next step in their estate planning journey.
1. The need to make difficult decisions or craft a perfect plan
Some call it ‘analysis paralysis’. Because a perfect outcome cannot be achieved, many choose not to plan. Difficult decisions may be in the form of who gets cherished personal possessions, who should care for minor children or whether an inheritance should be held in trust due to a beneficiary’s history of substance abuse.
The fact is, most estate plans require some form of compromise. Such compromises may be in the form of taxation, expenses or flexibility associated with the estate's distribution of assets.
When it comes to planning a will, accepting that a portion of the plan will be imperfect may be better than not preparing a plan at all.
2. The belief that your estate is too small to have a plan
It is with caution that we use the word “estate.” It provokes imagery of an old English manor with gargoyles set upon a backdrop of a well-groomed landscape. But, it doesn’t have to have rolling hills and stone figures to be an estate.
Simply put, your estate is everything you own, and includes such things as personal effects, bank accounts, pensions, your home as well as your car. It is suggested that if you possess these items or have dependents, you need a will.
But a will is more than identifying who receives what in your estate. A will simplifies the administration of your affairs and gives someone, your executor and trustee, authority to deal with your estate. So while the will does express your intentions, it is also a reflection of you. A will allows you to plan for those people and causes you care about, provides peace of mind that loved ones are taken care of and relieves some of the burden on family when you pass away.
3. Uncertainty about the will planning process
Creating habits result in activities becoming routine and second nature. However, when we want to pursue something novel, creating a well-worn path may take effort and time.
Although it may seem daunting at first, will planning does follow a path:
- First, get organized and list what you own (assets) and what you owe (liabilities).
- Second, discuss your objectives with your partner. You may wish to include other family members in the discussion.
- Third, consult with an advisor about your plan. Your advisor may be a lawyer, but it could also be another trusted professional, such as an accountant or financial advisor.
- Fourth, prepare an outline of your plan and wishes.
- Fifth, implement your plan, preferably with a qualified lawyer.
4. The expense of drafting a will
To help manage the costs of preparing your documents, do some preliminary planning and information gathering. As mentioned above, create a list of your assets and liabilities (this is what your estate consists of), then consider who you want to name as beneficiaries and what you want them to receive. Begin to think about who you may name in key roles such as executor and trustee and guardian of minor children. Finally, seek referrals from advisors and friends to qualified lawyers. As with other services, cast a broad net and inquire with several lawyers about both the cost to prepare the documents and the timeline to complete.
Over the last number of years, several new online providers are now offering will preparation services. For those needing to complete their wills within a particular budget, this may be an option but there are limitations to be aware of. The lawyer's role is broader than just drafting the will. A lawyer will advise you based on your specific situation and provide you with recommendations and insights to make your will and estate plan better. An online platform will not be able to offer the personalized advice a lawyer can.
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