Estate Plan—or Lack of One—Will Have an Impact on How You are Remembered

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Various studies show that most adults have not prepared a legal will. However, the point I’m really trying to make is that everyone has a will in a way—just not one that they have executed.

You have a will, even if you never make the effort to have one. However, it may not be the one you wanted, explains an article from The Washington Post titled “You will die. Don’t exit leaving a hot mess behind.” When someone dies without a will, the laws of their state determine how assets are distributed to their heirs.

We read many news articles about celebrities who die without wills. One of the most notable was Aretha Franklin, who died last year. She actually left behind three hand-written wills, including one found under a couch cushion. Her four children are now tangled in an expensive court battle. The fight has gotten so heated, that a judge put the estate’s administration under court supervision.

The rich and famous aren’t the only ones who leave messes behind for their heirs to deal with. The stories told by the woman in charge of funeral services at a Maryland church are so sad. Try these on for size, the next time you want to put off creating or revising your will:

A woman has four children. She dies with no will. Two children wanted to have her cremated, the other two wanted to honor her wishes for a burial. The matter ends up in court, where it is revealed that she had purchased a cemetery plot for herself. The family remains divided.

An older gentleman dies, leaving a $125,000 life insurance policy to his much younger girlfriend of two years. His adult children had no idea she was the beneficiary. The girlfriend refused to contribute to the funeral or burial. That was her right. However, the children were furious. When she tried to attend the funeral, the police were called.

Heard enough? Here’s one that will send you to the phone to make an appointment with your estate planning attorney right now:

A man died, and his current wife did not want either his children from his first marriage nor his first wife to have anything to do with the funeral. However, the man never took his first wife’s name off of the house title or as the beneficiary of his insurance policy. The ex-spouse got everything. The first wife paid for the funeral and burial, but she also reclaimed the house that was rightfully hers. The widow went to live with her mother.

Do yourself, your children and your current spouse a favor. Make an appointment with an estate planning attorney, check the beneficiaries on your insurance policies, retirement and investment accounts and get your affairs in order. We never know when we will pass, only that we will pass. Be remembered as the person, who took care of their loved ones.

Reference: The Washington Post (Oct. 5, 2019) “You will die. Don’t exit leaving a hot mess behind”


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