Estate Planning: Do it For Your Kids

Chris Jones

Chris Jones

Here’s another issue we’d all just as soon avoid, but wills and estate planning attorney Chris Jones gave me some really persuasive reasons why making out a will is one of the best things you can do for your grown offspring.
     One of the most grown-up things you can do for your grown-up children is to make a plan for your estate. You are modeling responsible adult behavior, you are providing a clear statement of your intentions at what will be a time of turmoil in their lives, and you are saving them money in settlement costs.
     By and large Americans acknowledge that wills are a good idea, yet polls show that a whopping 64% percent of us will die without leaving one. Moreover, 72% of the wills that do exist are so out-of-date they no longer reflect current circumstances or wishes. Even more surprising, wealthy individuals are no more likely to have wills than the rest of the population.
     The number one reason Americans say they don’t have a will is, “I just haven’t gotten around to it.” No wonder—who wants to think about death, especially your own? However, the consequences for you and your offspring are severe should you die without a will. Bear in mind that if you don’t have a plan, your state of residence has one for you. In some states your spouse will get everything, but in other states your children get half, and there are lots of variations in between. Moreover, in many states if you don’t leave a living trust:

  • Your estate goes to probate, which takes longer (7 months minimum in California) and is more expensive than if you had left the proper docs.
  • There is less likelihood your assets will be divided the way you want.
  • All the good you hoped to do by leaving money to the local hospital or your favorite niece will not happen.

     According to Chris Jones, JD, who was a practicing wills and estate planning attorney for 45 years, “You have to write your will when you have the mental capacity to do so. Do it when you’re young and healthy and then update it every few years. You don’t need to be a multi-millionaire to leave a will; there are lots of reasons beside money to make your wishes known.”
     If your children have children, Chris says it’s imperative for them to make out their wills, too. “It is especially critical for young parents to name guardians and set up trusts for minor beneficiaries,” he says. “If they don’t name a guardian, they’re leaving it up to the courts to name one for them. Even if your grown children don’t have two nickels to rub together, leaving a plan for custody is reason enough to make out a will.”
     In a future post we’ll discuss who should get what, but the takeaway from this introductory article about wills is, “Just do it!”

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