I don’t have a lot of money, so why do I need a will or estate plan?

January 24, 2020, by John Norris

You need to have a will if you meet any or both of the following conditions: 1) have a net worth in excess of, say, $10, and; 2) there is any one in the world about whom you care. If neither of these apply, you probably don’t need to worry about a will or an estate plan. If either do, it is probably best to jot a few ideas down on a slip of paper somewhere. What’s the harm?

The most common reasons why people don’t have a will have little to do with their net worth. Nope, they are: 1) they think it will be more expensive than it actually is, and; 2) most people don’t like discussing their mortality. As a result, they kick the proverbial can down the road for as long as they can.

First things first, a simple will doesn’t take a lot of time and doesn’t cost a lot of money. If you don’t have a taxable estate and don’t have a lot of complicated wishes, the drafting attorney might bill you by the form, as opposed to by the hour. As such, for a lot of folks, getting a will might cost in the hundreds of dollars, if that, as opposed to in the thousands.

Second, while talking about death isn’t always pleasant, death always happens. You can’t do cheat forever, and it doesn’t make you unique. So, putting off getting a will is, in a lot of ways, lying to yourself at the potential expense of your loved ones. After all, your stuff is going to go to someone and somewhere when you die.

Do you know the intestacy laws are in your state? Do you know what intestacy laws are? This is how the legal system divvies up your assets when you die without a will. That’s right; the government will decide who gets your stuff if you don’t want to go to the trouble of putting a few ideas down on paper.

To be sure, the intestacy laws where you live might meet your wants, wishes, and desires. Still, some states have, shall we say, interesting laws. For instance, if you die without a will in Alabama, your spouse may or may not get may or may not get all of your estate. Huh? That’s right; if you don’t have children but one or both of your legal parents is still living, your spouse will inherit the $100,000 of your intestate property plus half of the remainder. Your parents get the rest of it.

Another? How about this one? If you don’t have any children, a spouse, or living parents, your surviving siblings inherit everything equally. Do you still talk with them? There isn’t a charity, a friend, a niece or a nephew somewhere who you would like to get something, anything? Your baseball card collection? Your old matchbooks?

In the end, you don’t have to be rich or have a complicated situation to have a will. It is nothing more than telling the world, let alone the government, who you want to get your stuff after you die. It doesn’t cost that much, and it isn’t unnecessarily morbid.

Just do it.

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