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SENIOR ADVOCATE

By Liza Horvath

 

Debunking the Excuses For Not Having a Will

 

Depending on which sources you rely on, some 60 to 80 percent of adults do not have a will – the most basic of estate planning documents. The excuses for not doing planning are as varied as the people using them but here are some of the “regulars” we hear along with why these are not good excuses – at all.

 

“If I do my estate planning, I’ll die.” Oddly enough, this is a frequently heard reason for not having a will. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but no one gets out of here alive. You will die and whether it is next week or three decades from now your well written estate plan has no bearing on when the reaper calls. In fact, there is something to be said for having put to rest any worry or stress you may be experiencing by not having the planning in place.

 

“I don’t have anything, why should I bother?” A will and an Advance Health Care Directive are the basic documents that every one of us should have in terms of “an estate plan.” Statutory forms of these documents can be found on the internet and are also available free to seniors at Legal Services for Seniors in Seaside, 899-0492 and Salinas, 442-7700. If you have real estate, investments, a business or if you are in a blended family situation (married with children from previous marriages), you should have a plan that includes a revocable trust.

 

“We did our planning 20-years ago.” Congratulations! However, most estate planners suggest revisiting the plans every few years or whenever there is a “significant event” in your life. Significant events may include a beneficiary that has married, divorced or died, if you have changed spouses (a big one!), or if your wealth profile has significantly changed. Also, estate and tax laws change all the time. With the recent increase in the estate tax exemption most of the old “A and B” trusts can be problematic and cause unnecessary court action and expense. Get old plans updated regularly.  

 

“My spouse died 15 years ago but we had a trust so no action was required.” Wrong! Trusts are excellent and much simpler to administer than probates – but if a spouse dies there are definitely administrative actions that need to be addressed. See your attorney. It most likely will not require a significant amount of legal work but, at the very least, there are important notifications that may be required.

 

“Getting our planning done years ago was unpleasant. Our attorney is difficult.” Find another attorney! Your estate plan does not live at your attorney’s office. It is your plan, you paid for it and you can move your file to another law firm. It is extremely important to have a good relationship with your estate attorney. Think about it: this attorney will work with your family at a time when you are very ill, incapacitated or dead. Are you comfortable having them interact with your grieving children and spouse? If the answer is no, get a new lawyer. Your file and documents are fully transferrable – your new attorney can, most likely, work with your existing documents.

 

No more excuses, get your planning done. If you have a plan but have not looked at your documents in years – take time now and make sure they are up to date. Your family and heirs will be glad you did.

Liza Horvath has over 30 years experience in the estate planning and trust fields and is the president of Monterey Trust Management, a financial and trust management company. This is not intended to be legal or tax advice. If you have a questions call (831)646-5262 or email liza@montereytrust.com

 


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