Unlike going getting an annual check-up or renewing a driver’s license, there’s no penalty for the person who does not having a will and estate plan in place. Their spouse or children pay the price.
What’s more scary about most Americans not having a will, is that only 36% of Americans with minor aged children have a will. If both parents die, which does not happen frequently, but it does happen, those parents will not be the ones making a decision about who raises their children. A court will name a guardian.
A recent article in The New York Times, “Why You Should Get Around to Drawing Up a Will,” says the most common excuse given for not having a will was, “I just haven’t gotten around to it,” as cited by almost 50% of survey participants who didn’t have one. However, people are more likely to create estate planning documents as they get older. The survey shows that just one in five millennials (ages 18 to 36) has a will. On the other hand, the survey found that 81% of people 72 and older have one.
A valid will is important to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after you pass away. If you die without a will, your estate will be settled by North Carolina Intestate law, which typically means the assets pass according to the degree of family relationship.
Another important aspect of estate planning is the fact that some accounts take precedence over a will. For instance, a joint bank account with rights of survivor ship will transfer to the joint holder—even if your will says something contradictory. Likewise, retirement accounts and life insurance proceeds are distributed to the designated beneficiaries. It is important to keep them up-to-date.
Can you use an online software program? Both Consumer Reports and The New York Times looked into this, and found that an estate planning attorney was needed for all but the simplest estates. If you have assets or a complicated family situation, like blended families or a special needs child, you’ll want to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure that your will is properly prepared to achieve your wishes.
Another issue: where should you store the will? If you put it in a safety deposit box in a bank, it can be difficult for others to access the box after you pass. If you keep it at home, it needs to be in a fireproof safe. If you keep the original at your attorney’s office, make sure that your family members know who the attorney is and how to contact him or her.
Reference: New York Times (February 8, 2017) “Why You Should Get Around to Drawing Up a Will?”