You've probably got one of those "need to do eventually but not today" lists residing somewhere in your brain. Eat more salad. Paint the bathroom. Jog 30 minutes a day. Learn a foreign language. And while you normally hit snooze when these mental reminders go off in your brain, it may just be the one time when you might actually make an effort to get one or two of these items moved into the "let's do soon" list. The possibilities of a new year always seem to inspire those infamous resolutions and get us jump started on things we should have done a long time ago. But before you get carried away with this year's list, why don't you pencil in "write a will" at the top? Believe it or not, getting your will done this year might turn out to be the most important resolution you can make. Need convincing? Here's why:
Reason # 1: Your children
First and foremost, think about your kids. You've made a lifelong commitment to love and nurture them, but you can only carry out your desires on this side of the grave. If you haven't made provision for their guardianship upon your death, then the courts and the law will make that decision for you. Do you want the determination of your children's care and training entrusted to a faceless legal system? If not, then for no other reason write a will so that you can be the one to decide who will best raise and love your children when you aren't around to do it yourself.
Somehow, seven out of ten Americans never get around to penning the most important legal document - a will.
Reason # 2: Your assets
Second, you need to know that without a will, your assets will be divided up without any input from you. Did you want to leave the bulk of your money to your favorite aunt in Iowa instead of your ex-wife in LA? If you don't have a will, then your ex might just make off like a bandit while your aunt is left out in the cold. When Charlie Parker, the famous saxophonist, died in 1955, he had neglected to leave a will directing how his $150,000 estate was to be divided. The result was that those entitled to the money probably didn't receive what he would have wanted them to have. After seven long years, Parker's estate was finally split between his mother, his first wife, his children, and his third wife.
Even if you don't have big bucks, your assets will still be divvied out without any regard to your wishes if you don't have a will. The probate court will use a pre-determined legal formula to decide who gets what and how much they receive. Don't leave your money's fate to chance. Take control of what happens with your estate by getting that last will and testament done as soon as possible.
Reason # 3: The estate taxes
Estate taxes will devour at least a sizeable portion of the money you leave behind with a vengeance! Both the federal and state government get a piece of your fortune's pie, and when your estate ends up in probate court because you didn't leave a will, the chunk taken out will be even higher because of legal fees. Since you probably didn't work and save all those years just to benefit the government and the legal system, get your will written already! Though you can't totally avoid the taxes, you can minimize them by putting directions in your will to grant gifts to individuals and/or to place money in trust funds.
Now you know some of the important reasons why you need a will. But what are you going to do about it? Somehow, seven out of ten Americans never get around to penning this important legal document. Why is that? Because, we are busy. Between business meetings, golf outings, PTA functions, swim team practice, and other such events that make up our national life, we wait until some unrealistic "convenient" time appears on our schedule. Don't let yourself make this mistake in 2005. Put "will writing" at the top of that list. Trust me. Your will is more than just a piece of paper. It is a valuable gift to your family.