I’m trying to think of a good reason to not have a Will….

The story of Roman Blum has puzzled me all day. He was very wealthy – to the tune of $40M. He had many friends and was a fixture of the New York social scene. He was an incredibly smart business man, and employed a group of professional advisors including accountants and lawyers. He was obviously touched by many social causes having been a holocaust survivor himself. So how could a man in this position, reach the age of 97 and still be procrastinating over the act of writing his Will? How could a man with such a sizeable estate miss the boat entirely, and allow the whole lot to pass to the State treasury?

The New York Times article has some illuminating quotes from his friends and professional advisors, which has relevance to the 60 percent of adults who don’t currently have a Will;

He was a very smart man but he died like an idiot”
Paul Skurka, a fellow Holocaust survivor who befriended Mr. Blum in the 1970s

This comment demonstrates that writing a Will is often not about YOU, it’s about everybody that is left behind to pick up the pieces. It really is idiotic.

I spoke to Roman many times before he passed away, and he knew what to do, how to name beneficiaries,Two weeks before he died, I had finally gotten him to sit down. He saw the end was coming. He was becoming mentally feeble. We agreed. I had to go away, and so he told me, ‘O.K., when you come back I will do it.’ But by then it was too late. We came this close…”
Mason D. Corn, his accountant and friend for 30 years.

The man was 97 years old. He should have written a Will in his twenties and updated it throughout his life. Planning to prepare a Will just before you die is a desperately bad idea.

None of Mr. Blum’s friends know why he never wrote a will. Those close to him say it may have been superstition or, after coming so close to dying during the war, a refusal to contemplate his own mortality.”

At LegalWills, we can guarantee that you are no more likely to die if you have written your Will. We can also guarantee that you will die one day.

He may also have been unwilling to share the full details of his estate with a lawyer, the desire for secrecy a holdover from his experiences during the war.”

We have heard this before and explains why services like those offered by us at LegalWills.ca, LegalWills.co.uk and USLegalWills.com are increasingly popular. They are private and convenient, and your personal affairs need not be shared with anybody.

There is a lot of conjecture as to why Mr Bloom never created a Will, but there is real tragedy here. I am quite certain that if he had taken the few minutes to write a Will, he would almost certainly not left his entire fortune to the State of New York. That is not what he wanted.

“How come your Wills are so cheap?”

This is one of the most common questions we are asked; “how is it that if I go to a professional Will writer – a solicitor or lawyer, they will charge me 20 times your price?”. How do we make your service so affordable?

I think the most important factor is our sense of value for money. All too often we see lawyers writing online about a professional estate plan costing “as little as $1,200”. Even the most conservative estimates are in the range of “only $400-600″. To us, that seems like an outrageous amount of money. We’ve seen articles, written by lawyers saying “If you’re using a will kit because you’re too cheap to pay for legal advice”, which I think really demonstrates the disconnect between those paying for the service and those offering the service. It’s not a matter of being too cheap, it’s a matter of simply not being able to afford it.

This is why the Chief Justice of Canada, the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin noted, while addressing a room full of law students;

“the justice system…has failed thousands of Canadians who don’t have a legal will, simply because they do not have the money to hire a lawyer to draft one or are so afraid that what it will cost will bankrupt them”

We think it’s a disgrace that nearly three quarters of adults in the UK, US and Canada do not have a legal Will. This number should not be 70%, it should be nearer to 5%. It doesn’t make sense that a relatively simple document should be the exclusively the purview of legal professionals. Occasionally, a complex estate plan does require legal advice that draws upon the years of training and experience of a legal professional, but the legal profession know that no legal knowledge is required in the drafting of the vast majority of Wills. But this won’t stop them from scaremongering and sharing examples of how it can all go wrong. Take this example;

Many people unfortunately believe they can create their own will based on a legal (service) they located on the Web. These individuals need to realize that their estate probably does not simply consist of a bank account and a home. Many estates today could easily include additional real property (real estate), jewelry, a baseball card collection, first edition Nancy Drew books…

What on earth is this saying? how does a Will written by a legal professional for $600 cover these items any more thoroughly that an online service. In fact, we would argue that if you are including these items in your Will you SHOULD use an online service – it allows you to update your Will free of charge every time a change is made to your inventory. Otherwise you’ll be returning to the lawyer each time you buy a new first edition Nancy Drew book – the cost of an update – $500.

Writing the Will yourself can also protect you against immoral thieves like this woman.

The former solicitor and District Court judge, Heather Perrin, received her second jail sentence for deceiving her clients. Having been found guilty in November of tricking her elderly friend, Thomas Davis, into bequeathing half of his €1m estate to her two adult children, she pleaded guilty to falsifying another client’s account, for her own gain

Our services at LegalWills.ca, USLegalWills.com and LegalWills.co.uk allow you to write your own Will, from home, and guides you through the process. You learn about the contents of your Will, and the things to consider. You can update it at any time, and it will cost you $34.95 in the US or Canada, or £24.95 in the UK.

If it was up to us, the government would offer our website as a public service to ensure that everybody had a Will in place. In the meantime, we cover our costs and hope that we can make the process accessible to as many people as we can.

Things can go wrong

Many people have a strange notion that the best time to write their Last Will and Testament is just before they die, and that preparing the document today is unnecessary. We’ve even had people on our Facebook page say that “fortunately, I don’t need a Will yet”. We made reference to this in an earlier blog article and explained that there are at least three important issues with taking this approach;

  1. You really don’t know when you are going to die
  2. When we are about to die, we may not have the facilities in place to write a Will, and it may not be the first thing on our minds
  3. We may actually lack the mental capacity to prepare a Will at this time and the document is more likely to be challenged.

It has also been suggested to us that some people feel that preparing their Will is actually tempting fate; in other words, if they write their Will, they are actually more likely to die!

We try to explain to people that a Will is not a final document; it can be updated throughout one’s life. In fact, it should be reviewed on a regular basis and updated whenever there is a change in financial or personal circumstance, and not just for the Will writer, but also a change in circumstance for anybody mentioned in the Will. It is always a good idea to have a Will, even if you are young and healthy.

This was made even clearer to me in the last week by two separate incidents that happened to my close friends and neighbours. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but it demonstrates how quickly things can go wrong.

The first incident happened a few doors down the street. We’ve had a very long hot summer here and one afternoon for whatever reason, some dry grass ignited in the back yard of a house. It quickly caught onto some bushes, a tree, then some power lines which ignited the roof of the house. Within a few hours a beautiful residential house was completely destroyed. Nobody’s fault and there was nothing that anybody could have done.

The next incident happened just a few days later at a friend’s cottage. The days of humidity finally broke and a thunderstorm came through. A few miles from here, the thunderstorms came out of nowhere and were violent. My friend was stranded in their cottage while trees were being uprooted all around them. After an hour or so, they emerged from the cottage to see complete devastation.

Natural disasters do not need to be on the scale of a Tsunami or a Katrina. They can happen very close to home and barely warrant a mention in the news. But the impact can be profound.

None of us are immortal and it doesn’t matter how healthy we are, or how careful we are; things like this can happen.

Fortunately at sites like LegalWills.ca, USLegalWills.com and LegalWills.co.uk you can create your Will in a matter of minutes, from the comfort of your home at a fraction of the cost of paying for legal advice. It doesn’t make sense to procrastinate when you can have peace of mind by the end of the day today.

Some quick tips ahead of preparing your Will

We thought it would be useful to give a few tips for anybody contemplating using one of the services offered at LegalWills. We tell people that you can create a Will in around 20 minutes, but there are a few simple things that you can do to make the process smoother.

1. Don’t be intimidated. You are simply describing how you would like your estate to be distributed if you were to pass away. In most cases this is a very simple process and you do not need to have any legal knowledge to be able to use our service.

2. Do not procrastinate. It seems that many people wait for that perfect time in their life to prepare a Will, not realizing that a Will can be updated at any time. It is more important to have a Will in place that may need to be changed  in a few weeks or months rather than wait until that perfect moment when your life isn’t going to change. Things will happen either to you or to somebody included in your Will and there is a very high likelihood that your Will is going to need to be changed at some point in the future. Write the Will now, and update it when something happens in your life.

3. Think about key appointments. There are two important appointments to be made in a Will. Firstly, you will name an Executor (and an alternate Executor if your first choice is unable to serve). This person will have responsibility to carry out the instructions in the Will. We have described in previous articles how important this appointment is, and talked about the skills and characteristics that need to be possessed by your Executor. Secondly, you may also need to name a guardian for any minor children that you have. Again, we have described some of the considerations that you may think about in naming this person, but it is an appointment that should be made after careful thought.

We also recommend that the appointment of Executor and Guardian should not come as a surprise to somebody. You should discuss these appointments ahead of time with your chosen individuals and make sure that they are prepared to take on the roles.

4. Think about the distribution of your property. This is the why most people write their Last Will and Testament, and it is a good idea to think about this ahead of time. The people who have influenced your life, organizations that you may wish to recognize in your Will, family members, friends. And also think about the assets and possessions that make up your estate and consider how they should best be distributed. Remember of course that the Will can be updated, so if a person or organization makes a profound impression on your life, you can always update your Will to reflect this.

After you have prepared your Will you can add an inventory of assets that can be stored with your Will. At LegalWills.ca, LegalWills.co.uk and USLegalWills.com we have a document specifically to assist your Executor that should be stored with your Will. It helps you to list your personal details and assets including important contact numbers and financial account information. This information typically should not appear in the Will itself as this would require a new Will to be signed and witnessed every time a bank account was changed, but it is an important document that should be stored with the Will.

Once you are clear on the key appointments and the distribution of your property, you are in a great position to start preparing your Will. There is really no need to postpone the task and you really can have your legal Last Will and Testament in your hands in 20 minutes. There is certainly no need to feel intimidated; it is your document, expressing your wishes.

When should you update your Last Will and Testament?

It’s a common statistic that 65-70% of adults have not written their Will, however, one of the lesser reported stats is that the majority of the Wills that are in place, are out-of-date and should have been revised. The difficulty of course is that finding the time and money to create a Will in the first place can be prohibitive, so booking an appointment and paying the same professional fees again to make a change to that Will is out of reach for most people.

33834437 – last will and testament

Unfortunately, when you create a Will with a lawyer or solicitor you really have no idea how long that Will is going to last. By the time you get home from the lawyer’s office, your Will could be out of date. There’s a standard set of reasons for updating your Will that you’ll find on many lawyers’ websites. These include obvious things like a change in marital status, birth of a new child or the death of a family member or beneficiary. Clearly, updating a Will immediately having a child may not be at the forefront of your mind, and sadly we do see countless examples of parents of young children not getting around to writing a new Will immediately after a child is born.

In reality though, the need to update a Will is more nuanced than that. You not only have to look at changes to your own situation, but also any changes in circumstance of anybody, or anything, mentioned in your Will. So, here’s a little test, which of these situations might prompt an update to your Will?

  • The person that you have named as your Executor has been convicted of a crime and is serving time in prison.
  • The person that you have named as personal guardian for your children has had triplets of their own
  • You have purchased a new summer property
  • Your daughter has got married
  • Your son is proving to be extremely irresponsible with his money
  • Your alternate Executor has died
  • You have sold your house
  • Your Executor has changed their name

I think for most of these examples, the recommendation would be to update your Will, but when you are working with a legal professional, it may seem an expensive and inconvenient proposition to book an appointment to make a relatively trivial change. This is why many people are turning to online services like the ones at LegalWills.ca , LegalWills.co.uk and USLegalWills.com. These services allow you to set up an account, from which you can update your Will whenever you need to. You then make the change, print the new document and sign it in the presence of two witnesses to create a new legal Last Will and Testament.

Some people update their Will every few months based on their interactions with the people around them; a dinner party gone wrong, a snubbed invitation, an unwelcome comment about an inheritance. You are certainly free to update your Will whenever you wish, but going through this exercise every time a beneficiary falls in and out of favour will not necessarily result in your estate plan reflecting your final wishes. It may make more sense to update your Will after a change in circumstance rather than a change in heart.

The most important message is that an outdated Will can be worse than no Will at all. You should double check your Will whenever there is a significant event for anybody mentioned in the document and make any required changes. At a bear minimum you should read through your Will once a year to confirm that it still reflects your wishes and that your instructions can still be carried out.

New Year’s Resolutions and your Last Will and Testament

January is always our busiest month of the year at LegalWills; it is a time for reflection and also a time for looking to the future. Over the holidays many of us have spent time with relatives and discussed family matters. There may have been a conversation about a family member who passed away in 2011, and the chances are that person made a mess of their estate planning (the vast majority of people don’t even have a Will in place). Maybe around the dinner table on Christmas Day there was a discussion about your own family’s succession and estate planning; who will get the cottage? or maybe Grandad promised you his pocket watch. One important talk that we had was the difficult discussion surrounding the guardianship of our daughter; who would the most appropriate guardian be, and would they be prepared to take on the responsibility?

New Year’s Resolutions are often made in the area of healthcare and financial wellbeing, and these are the very areas addressed in a complete estate plan. Two key healthcare documents are the Living Will and Power of Attorney which allow you to both express your own wishes if you are ever unable to speak for yourself, and also allow you to appoint somebody to make both financial and healthcare decisions on your behalf. Along with eating a healthier diet, and working out, it should be a resolution to get the most important documents in place; life insurance, powers of attorney and a living Will.

Financially there is probably no more important document than a Last Will and Testament, it is part of a sound financial plan and not a document to be written just before you die (chances are, when your death is imminent it will not be a convenient time to write a Will).   The New Year is a great time to either create a Will, or review one that is already in place. It makes sense to; review your choice of personal guardian for your children, make sure that you have chosen the most appropriate person to serve as Executor of your estate, and take another look at your beneficiaries. So you may have a resolution to keep an eye on your spending, save money where possible, try to increase your income. But the most important step in your financial planning is to put your Last Will and Testament together.

It only takes about 30 minutes and is very affordable if you use one of the interactive online services now available like www.legalwills.ca , www.uslegalwills.com and www.legalwills.co.uk. There is no legal requirement to pay for the services of a lawyer or solicitor to create a Will, everybody has a legal right to prepare their own Will.

So why not cross one resolution off today and get your estate planning documents in order?

Write your Will just before you are about to die !!

It seems that the prevailing attitude towards writing a Last Will and Testament is that the best time to prepare one is right before you die. After all, the statistics show that around 70% of adults don’t have a Will in place.

Today I’ve read two articles that reinforce this strange notion. The first one comes from the memoirs of Dick Cheney. Apparently there was a point where Osama Bin Laden thought he was going to be captured. The memoir explains

“In the first months of the war in Afghanistan, we had bin Laden pinned down. According to the official report of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he was trapped like the rat he was in a collection of caves and tunnels in a part of eastern Afghanistan called Tora Bora. Bin Laden was so certain he was about to be killed he wrote his last will and testament.”

It seems astonishing to me that a person with Bin Laden’s resources and “political” position wouldn’t have taken the time at some point in his life to have written a Last Will and Testament. Perhaps there are cultural differences, but even in the Western World people seem to think that a Will is something to be written while lying on your deathbed. In fact, the best time to write a Will is right now. It can be updated as often as you like to reflect changes in your personal or financial situation, but waiting until you are just about to die is really bad planning.

The headline of this article made me laugh. “Anabelle forced to draft last will after death-defying flight”. The story goes that a person faced a near-death experience which made them realize that life was fragile, and they also realized that they didn’t have a Will in place. This happens a lot. When people see tragedy around them , they understand that they are not indestructible and calamity can hit any one of us at any time. The idea that Anabelle was then forced to write her Will is an interesting perspective; as if it’s the last thing any healthy person would want to do. In fact, you should be writing your Will when you are healthy and of sound mind and it should not be a task filled with dread and sorrow.

Everybody should have a Will, young or old, rich or poor, healthy or not.