A straightforward blog article today with a simple question; “do your parents have their Last Will and Testaments in place, and updated to reflect their current wishes and circumstances?”. We know that about 60-70% of people don’t have a Will in place, and most of these are not kept up-to-date, but I am guessing that a very few number of people have had the discussion with their parents regarding their estate plans. There are obvious reasons for this; first is the misconception that a talking about estate planning is tantamount to telling them that they’re about to die. This is of course a strange notion because few people plan their death, but everybody should have their estate plan in place.
The other misplaced notion is that you would be prying into the financial affairs of your parents. Of course, asking if your parents have a Will does not require that you are privy to the contents of that Will. Parents can just let you know that yes, they have a Will, you may be the Executor of that Will, the rest can wait until after they have passed away.
Why do you even need to know if a Will is in place? Because a parent dying with a Will, and a parent dying without a Will are two very different experiences.
When a single remaining parent passes away and their Will is in place, the Executor takes that Will to the probate courts, is granted permission to administer the estate and take care of the funeral plans. With this court document they are able to go to the banks and financial institutions and gather the assets of the estate to be distributed according to the wishes outline in the Will. Everything can be resolved in a matter of weeks.
Without a Will different people may apply to the courts to administer the estate. No asset can be touched until the court appointed administrator has been assigned. The estate will then be distributed according to the laws of that jurisdiction which may require certain assets for example, real estate, to be liquidated. The whole process is likely to take months rather than weeks, no asset can be touched in the meantime and the distribution of the assets will not likely match the wishes of the person who died. Arguments and family divisions are far more likely with children squabbling over everything from the funeral plans to the ownership of individual items. And there is actually quite a high probability that some assets are never even discovered.
Parents who die without a Will end up creating problems for their children, so have the discussion. Just ask if a Will is in place and ask if it has been updated in recent memory. You need not pry and you are not hastening the demise of your parents by asking the question. If the answer is no, you should let them know that it need not be expensive, and can be done in 30 minutes or less at sites like LegalWills.ca, LegalWills.co.uk and USLegalWills.com.
We had an interesting comment into our support team yesterday. This person wasn’t complaining about the cost of going to see a lawyer or a solicitor to create a Last Will and Testament, it was the inconvenience. Today a survey from the UK revealed that about 30 million adults in Britain do not have a Will and the survey outlined the main reasons for this. One surprising finding from the survey is that only 11 percent cited “cost” as being a major reason for not preparing their Will. The remaining 89 percent are blocked by a variety of rationalisations all related to not feeling compelled enough to overcome the inconvenience factor.
As our caller noted; you have to shop around for a legal professional to help you, and make a selection by trying to establish legal fees vs quality of service. We know that lawyers can charge anything from $100 to $5,000 or £100 to £2,000. Somehow, everybody is expected to understand why there is such a variation. Next, you have to book an appointment, and then take the time to head to this lawyer’s office and hope that you have all of the answers to all of the questions. If you don’t, you will need to book a follow-up appointment and then hope that nothing changes in your life because you would then need to book another appointment. Each time, these appointments will take up your lawyer’s time and ultimately cost money. If a couple require reciprocal Wills they will probably need to book a time that works for both spouses. They will definitely need to update their Will when they have a newborn child, so they may need to take their baby to the appointment with them.
This all ties into these survey results. 22 percent of respondents said that their health was good enough that they didn’t need a Will. Most people planned to leave the creation of a Will for when they were older. In other words, when they were less busy with their packed schedules, and less likely to have to change it again in the future. The inconvenience factor forces people to consider the creation of a Will a once in a lifetime task rather than an ongoing part of their financial planning.
There are some lawyers who will do house calls (this picture is actually in our neighbourhood) and some will try to fit in with your schedule, but certainly not all. This is why services like the one at LegalWills.ca, USLegalWills.com and LegalWills.co.uk are becoming increasingly popular. Yes, they are much more affordable than having a Will drawn up by a legal professional, but the real benefit is that you can create your Will anytime, anyplace, as long as you have access to a computer, the internet and a printer. Need to make an update? just login to your account, make a change and print a new document. The process takes minutes rather than half a day and it can be written last thing at night after the children have gone to bed !
Everybody needs a Will, even if you think you have nothing worth leaving (you don’t know what your estate will be worth when you die) or even if you think it’s obvious where your assets will be distributed (it’s a much simple process with a Will than without one). So don’t be like the 30 million Brits and get your Will written.