President and Founder at Network People, Inc., CISSP
I heard a frightening story the other day about a business owner of a $20M company who did a great job of documenting the plan should he pass away unexpectedly. However, he didn’t “get around to” signing the paperwork and making it official. Unfortunately, tragedy struck and his life was taken. Because he didn’t sign the paperwork, neither his wife or his management team were able to exercise his desired plan. What had to be done legally was a much worse result for all involved. This could happen to us at work or at home if we don’t do our job of writing out the plan before something happens.
In light of this, here are 5 quick reminders about the importance of getting your will done.
- Get one! You owe it to your family. Do a will.
- This is not a gentle reminder. This is a firm nudge. You need to do this if you haven’t.
- Think of how difficult it will be on them if you don’t help with these decisions now.
- This is “Doing the right thing.”
- If you don’t sign it, it didn’t happen.
- Unsigned intentions are worthless in the eyes of the court.
- I know it sounds absurd that people would do all that work and not get around to signing it. The truth is that most of us have done “some” of the work. We all basically know what we want to happen. But the extra step of getting it in writing and signing it doesn’t happen. That’s what we want to avoid.
- In 2004, my wife and I contacted an attorney who was a customer of ours and asked them to setup a will. For $350, they prepared the will, the trust, and power of attorney documents. It took 2 meetings and a maximum of 2 hours. Everyone has time to spend 2 hours doing this critical task. My life is a little more complicated now and as I am making updates, I suspect it will take more time than before. But even if it takes 4 times as long, 1 day is not a big deal.
- Use a trust
- It transfers your assets to children or beneficiaries without getting stuck in probate.
- It protects your estate from taxes.
- It makes it easier to fill out every beneficiary form from now until eternity because you just enter the name of the trust.
- Assign a power of attorney
- Healthcare. Who will make decisions about your health if you are incapacitated. Imagine leaving these decisions up to a loved one while you are unable to speak in a hospital bed. It’s disrespectful to them and a huge burden. Help others know what you want done so they don’t have to guess.
- Finances. Who will make decisions about how you will spend your money if you are incapacitated. Is it ok to make purchases for kids, for spouse, or for the home? Should assets be sold, if so does anyone have authority to do so on your behalf? Give instructions so that your loved ones aren’t guessing.
- Choose the right person for the job
- Designate decision makers (power or attorney, trustee, guardian, executor) based on their ability to do the job well.
- DON’T choose people to make them happy. For example: The top 2 choices for guardians of our children are NOT family members. Kelly and I love our family but they are not in a location or in a place in life where they can take on the parenting of 4 children. That’s a huge job. Can you imagine if that became a brother or sister or grandparent’s job overnight simply because I didn’t document a plan? Ouch. We chose people there were most suitable for the job at this time in their life
One of the most important parts of this process is communication. Use this as an opportunity to have conversations with family and friends about things that are truly important to you. Even if it is a little uncomfortable, these conversations can be powerful.
Putting this part of your house in order will be “doing life better” because it enables those you love and who are depending on you to make the right decisions.