This is a guest post by Keith Schindler, business partner and friend of mine. Keith owns MoneyisnotTaboo.com, where I also post twice a month. Feel free to check out his website for more posts by the both of us. Hope you enjoy this feature today!
Last Will and Testaments
I’ve had a major change in life, with my divorce becoming final, so my last will is no longer what I need it to be. Actually, with changes even before this, I should have updated it, but at least I had one.
So, how does a will fit into personal finance? Well, if you have assets in the form of money, or other things of value, it does. Your “wealth” has to go somewhere, and it’s better if you decide the destination(s), instead of the court.
Depending upon what state you live in, you REALLY need a will if you have minor children, so you can determine who your minor children will live with if you pass before they become adults. Check with a legal professional on this, as you might have to have a separate directive for your little ones.
Why am I writing about Last Wills and Testaments?
In my 60 years, I’ve put together a modest estate, including property, vehicles, things, and funds in investment and other accounts. My “wealth” has to go somewhere, and I want it to go to the people I WANT it to go to, so it’s a major part of my financial plan.
Courtney and I were texting the other morning as we often do, talking (Texas chatting with New York) about this and that, and one of my favorite subjects, Courtney’s daughter, Madison Rose. I was working on the updates to my new will at the time Courtney and I were texting, so I asked her if she and her husband had wills in place.
We talked about where we were in our estate planning and how fun “adult” activities, such as preparing a will can be. Anyway, I asked if she thought Last Wills and Testaments would be a good topic for Your Average Dough. She said yes, so here I am, pecking away at my keyboard.
I’ll Be Honest
My ex-wife and I didn’t have wills when our kids were little. I don’t know if my folks did either, as they never spoke to me about wills. Neither of my kids have kids, but I have talked with them about setting up wills. I’ve not pushed the matter, as I know how both can be if I’m a nagging father 😊
I’ve heard of a number of folks whose parents didn’t have wills and it was a pain to finalize the parents’ estates. We were lucky, in that neither one of us have passed, especially during the time that we didn’t have wills in place.
My late sister and I were lucky in that both our parents had wills in place when they passed. My dad passed before mom and it sure made it easier on us (Mom, my sister, and I) and it did for my sister and I when Mom passed. I don’t remember about Dad, but my step-dad made sure that my sister and I had access to money when we knew that Mom was not going to come out of the hospital. This made it possible to pay for her funeral expenses and make some house, car and bill payments until her will was probated.
So, what happens if you die without a will?
If you do so, your estate
passes on in what is called INTESTATE
SUCCESSION, which basically means that a court-appointed executor will
compile any assets you have, pay any liabilities that you might have, and then
distribute your remaining assets to those parties that the executor deems as
For more detailed information on Intestate Succession, check out Find Law’s article, Understanding Intestacy: If You Die Without an Estate Plan.
Why Do I Need a Will?
Life was less complicated when I was young, in my first years of marriage. My ex-wife and I didn’t have much to our names; no paid for real property and no money to really speak of. We each had cars, personal belongings, and a house we were paying on. That was pretty much it. Oh, we had debt, enough that would bankrupt our minute estates, if we passed at that time.
Things are different now. I own real property, outright, as does my ex. We co-own the homestead at our native Texas wildlife reserve, The SnK Wildlife Reserve. We both have investment accounts, bank accounts, multiple vehicles that are paid for, and LOTS of stuff, including my intellectual property. My estate is not the only complicated aspect of my will, as I have family and non-family heirs named in my will.
So, I HAVE to have a new will that will hold up in court.
Since my estate is complicated, I’ve retained a lawyer to help me put it in place. I have to; there’s no way I can write my own will and ensure that it will hold up in probate. According to Dave Ramsey, “Probate is the legal process that takes place after someone dies. It makes sure property and possessions are given to the correct people, and any taxes or debts owed are paid in full.” For more information on probate, Ramsey goes into more detail in his blog post, “What is Probate?”
Back in earlier years, my estate was small enough that I could write my own will. It’s possible to do so in Texas, but I’m not sure if it can be done in all states. I’ve seen sites that provide templates for writing one’s own will, and the list of states is pretty extensive, so check to see if your state allows it.
For me, it’s just not feasible. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve retained a lawyer and his firm is grinding away at putting it together. My sweetheart followed my lead and has had her will prepared by a lawyer too. She’s supposed to pick up her completed will in the next day or so.
So, if you don’t have a will, I STRONGLY suggest that you get one in place. If you can do it on your own for free, AWESOME, but if not, the expense will be well worth it to ensure that your will holds up in court.
That’s my take on Last Wills and Testaments, but there’s more to take care of than just a will in estate planning. There’s also financial power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, and living will that need to be addressed. I expect those to be worked out by my attorney in preparing my will. If not, I’ll definitely ask about them. For more information, check out the following resources I have compiled.
What Does a Last Will and Testament Actually Do? – SmartAsset.com
Key Points You Must Consider in Your Last Will and Testament – FinanciallySimple.com
4 Key Elements Of Estate Planning – TheBalance.Com
Who Needs an Estate Plan? Probably You – Principle.Com
8 Documents That Are Essential to Planning Your Estate – MoneyTalksNews.Com
Okay, so I’ve given you some reasons why one should have a will, and some resources for getting started. What’s to keep you from doing so? Perhaps, the overwhelming thoughts of all you have to do. Well, it’s worth it, especially to your loved ones. So, get started as soon as possible.
I write my will every yeat. But also, I am slowly transforming all my properties into broad-based ETFs. After my death, my executor will only have to sell my ETFS and distribute it according to the instructions.
I am even getting rid of my car and using Uber so that there will be one more issue to deal with.
Finally, I am getting rid of all the crap in my rented apartment.
Thanks for the feedback. Good for you on being so proactive. Every year seems like quite a task, but it sound necessary, if things change much, year to year.
I won’t be selling any vehicles, but getting rid of crap sounds like a good idea.
Such a good post. Funnily enough, I am visiting my mom right now and one of the things we’re setting up is an appointment to an estate lawyer to take care of all this.