Do your parents have a Will?

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.

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Planning for death, or just being sensible?

At LegalWills we’ve been working in the estate planning business for over 10 years. We regard writing a Will, a Power of Attorney and a Living Will as the most natural thing to do, somewhat akin to filing one’s taxes. In our World, writing a Will is just a part of sensible financial planning. There is nothing morbid or dark about the process whatsoever.

We realize however that not everybody thinks the same way. Around many dinner tables, if the parents want to raise the topic of their Last Will and Testament, they will likely be shouted down by a chorus of “oh, Mum and Dad, don’t be so morbid, you’ve got years left yet”. But this is fed by the misconception that your Will should be written just before you die, and of course, none of know when that is going to be.

A Will is not a once in a lifetime document. It is part of continuous financial planning that should be reviewed on a regular basis, perhaps even annually. By preparing my Will, I am not saying that I am ready to shuffle off this mortal coil. I just know that I will be leaving a complete mess to my loved ones if I don’t take an hour of my time now.

But this led me to thinking about other preparations that should be done to protect my loved ones. At our sister site of PartingWishes.com there are a number of complementary services to help you ease the burden for the people dealing with your death. One of the most important of these is an expression of your funeral wishes.

Why should you document your funeral wishes?  First of all, it is a thoughtful and considerate gesture for your loved ones who would otherwise be faced with a battery of questions and options at a time when they are least capable of dealing with them.

You may have discussed in general terms with your family whether you would rather be buried or cremated, or that you would prefer a big party over a somber get together, but most people do not even consider these basic questions until they reflect on their own mortality.  For many people it is also a difficult subject to discuss seriously and openly with their friends and family.  However, even if you have made your basic wishes known, did you share your views on the overall cost of the funeral service, or who you would like to be present, or any readings or music that you feel would be appropriate at your service?  And what guarantee do you have that your wishes will be remembered or communicated when the time is right?

Even if you don’t care. Even if you take the attitude that you’ll be gone so you don’t care what happens at your funeral. Just picture your loved ones dealing with questions like “would you like oak or mahogany? brass handles or pewter?” etc, etc, etc. It’s just not fair to make anybody have to sit through that if you can save them the pain by putting in a little effort ahead of time. You also might find it surprising that the average funeral cost is over $10,000. You are in a position today to say either; this is too much, or explain how you would want that money to be spent.

By putting these plans in place and giving some thought to these issues now, you are simply lifting a burden from your loved ones who will without question, have to deal with these issues in the future. Nobody is immortal and many of us will leave loved ones behind. You can perform a massive service to these people by helping them ahead of time by giving some thought to these things today. Take a look at the services at www.PartingWishes.com and have everything organized today.