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Why does everyone need a will?
With a Will
Without a Will
Some of the reasons people use for not having a will include:
- "I don't have much property."
Each of us has property worthy of distribution to someone-an automobile, bank account, stereo, home computer, furniture, jewelry, paintings, china, etc. Even if everything were sold at an estate auction, it would probably yield several thousand dollars which could be useful to your favorite charity.
- "My property is in joint names.
This is a trap into which many people fall. Having property in joint name is no excuse for not having a will. In the event of a common disaster, you will have no distribution plan. Or, the other joint tenant could predecease you. Having everything in joint name is also a bad estate plan because the first spouse to die loses the benefit of his or her lifetime estate tax exemption.
spouse will get everything anyway."
This is an invalid premise. If you die without a will, your children may share in a major part of the estate. Your spouse may predecease you, or you may get a divorce. Both of you may die in a common disaster with the result that everything will be left up to chance. (For example) Did you know that if you die without a will in Massachusetts, your children share in the estate? Do you want your 21 year old college student to receive a percentage of your estate rather than having it all go to your spouse?
- "I'm young. I have plenty of time."
A review of the obituaries will show that death is not a state reserved only for the elderly. Many people in their forties and fifties and younger die from all kinds of unexpected accidents and diseases. (The number of court appointed guardians after 9/11/01 should be a reminder that we're surrounded by uncertainty.)
- "I'm not
married so I don't need a will."
This is all the more reason why you need one. Who knows what haphazard distribution will result from a distribution under state laws in your case.
- "My wife and I already split
out estates into two revocable trusts. Everything worthwhile is in the name of
either my trust or my wife's trust and will be distributed according to the terms
we have outlined."
Each of you still needs a pour-over will that simply provides for anything standing in your name alone upon your death to be distributed to your trust. Then, the trust takes over the distribution plan. It is very unlikely not to own something outside the revocable trust at death. Moreover, some people set up living trusts but neglect to fund them.
Source: Excerpted with permission from The Complete Guide to Planned Giving by Debra Ashton,
copyright 2002, Ashton Associates, Quincy, MA 02169 www.debraashton.com
Sheppard Pratt Health System
Office of Philanthropy
Marguerite O. Kelley, Director of Major Gifts and Planned Giving
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