News sources swarmed the recent announcement that Prince didn’t leave a will to define how his multi-million dollar estate should be managed.
Even though most of us don’t have millions of dollars, the news begs the question – why have a will? Many seniors over 65 don’t and fewer than 7 percent of those ages 18-29 have written out their wishes, so it seems a lot of folks aren’t prioritizing the process.
But experts say even if you don’t think you have considerable assets to divvy out, establishing a will is the responsible thing to do. Here are three reasons why:
- It may impact your healthcare here-and-now. As part of a living will, you can execute an Advance Health Care Directive where you’ll name your healthcare proxy – the person making the calls in the hospital if you can’t. Without it, your decisions will default to whoever is designated by the state. That person will be responsible for expressing your interests around some pretty weighty decisions such as organ donation and end-of-life care. Also part of planning process, you’ll be able to grant power of attorney to someone you trust who can manage your bills, taxes, etc., if you become incapacitated.
- You can dictate who takes care of your children in the event of tragedy. Maybe you assume it’s obvious who will become your child’s guardian or, perhaps, there’s an understanding within the family but it’s not legally binding. But if you don’t have a will the courts will choose from among your family members or a state-appointed guardian. Do you want to risk leaving that decision up for debate?
- You can protect your loved ones. With or without a will, the court is responsible for administering your estate and will go through a lengthy probate process. Minimize the impact on your family and speed up an already complicated undertaking when you spell out your wishes for all involved. Your will can safeguard payouts from life insurance policies and make sure assets go to the correct beneficiaries.
A couple of other reasons to establish a will include outlining gifts to charities or friends and making sure all your accounts – online and otherwise – are properly closed out.
The first step is to really think about who you’d trust to manage your affairs and talk to those people. Then, consider meeting with an estate lawyer to determine what kind of legal action you can take now to safeguard your future later.