Recently a post went out from our office across a few social media outlets that pretty much sums it up when it comes to reasons why most folks, especially parents and smallbiz owners need a will. The post went something like: “Got kids? Get a will. Got more than one heir? Get a will. Got a high risk job? Get a will. Got the picture? If it’s a Renoir, get a will.”
The Issue: Children
While we’ve written here repeatedly about how important it is for parents to have a will because of the guardianship provision, it bears repeating. Only by having a valid will can you nominate a potential guardian or potential guardians for your children. If you’re a single parent, having a valid will is all the more important. You don’t want an irresponsible parent having control over your child’s estate, which he or she will have, if you’ve followed this series and bought life insurance, or daily care if the other biological parent believes that chips and fruit punch make for a good breakfast. An alternative issue about children can be found in the converse: If you’re single and have been responsible intimately, you want to ensure that “fake children” cannot inherit from you.
The issue: Multiple heirs.
Wills or the potential for inheritance often results in less than happy-go-lucky family dynamics, especially if someone dies without a will and with a couple of children or a few nieces and nephews. So a will allows one to head the family feud off at the pass. You can state who will get what and when and the best part is you don’t have to say why. Frankly, that should be communicated long before the ink on the will is dry. If you’re unsure about the allocation, you can leave it to the discretion of the executor and have a “no-contest clause” inserted and then talk about it at Thanksgiving. That might provide the impetus needed for having that “conversation.”
The Issue: High Risk Profession.
Do you work as a carrier of jet fuel? Are you a criminal defense attorney or a divorce lawyer with walk-in offices? High-wire artist? Human rights attorney working in the hotspots, such as Afghanistan?
The Issue: Art and other collectibles.
People tend to put a value on everything from brown crock-pots to President Jefferson’s cravat. If you own anything that is similar to Jefferson’s cravat, the pen Clinton used when he signed DOMA, Reagan’s cowboy boots, Liberace’s cape, you need to get that or those items first appraised by a qualified appraiser. Next, you should have a will prepared that will determine how that valuable piece or collection is going to be managed, i.e., sold, handed down, donated.
More than 70% of Americans don’t have a will and that percentage surely includes people who have children or who don’t plan to have children, folks with more than a few heirs who might argue over a collection of antique doohickeys. Children should be taught how to plan; one should plan appropriately for not having children; and doohickeys should also be in the plan – the estate plan that includes a will.