Do I Really Need a Will?

I’m embarrassed to say that I’m one of those people who has texted my Will to a family member. Like most parents with dependent children, every so often we’ve traveled somewhere overseas without them. You know the feeling — “What if our plane goes down? Who would take care of our kids?” So as the plane is pushing back and the flight attendant is telling you to put your phone on airplane mode, you write that crazy sounding text to your favorite sister — “Hey! Sorry to be texting this! But if for any reason me and Darcie die on this trip, you get all the kids! Oh and thanks for being willing to do that! :-)” Ha! Sound crazy? Admit it, you’ve done this at least once in your life. Nod, so I feel a little better.

What’s silly is that you don’t have to be getting on a plane to China to face the risk of unexpected, untimely death. I know it’s depressing and no one wants to think about it, but it’s far more likely that a drive on Main Street or on the Interstate could end in a fatal accident. I suppose sometimes you have to be going somewhere far away and for a period of time to think about these kinds of things.

If you’re like me when I first considered getting a Will, I thought, “It sounds expensive.” Or “Ahh, I’m too young to worry about that.” But as life has happened I’ve come to the conclusion that every adult should have some kind of end of life plan. Heck, at age 16 we’re asked if we want to be an organ donor on our drivers license! If a 16 year old can make that decision, surely we as adults should be thinking about this stuff.

Here are few reasons why you may want to consider getting a Will and Trust:

First of all, everyone needs to decide critical things about an untimely death—their own, or their spouses or even their child’s or parent’s for that matter.. If I die for example, who gets my assets? Who gets my business? Who will pay my debts? Do I have Life Insurance? Do I need it? What if I don’t die, but I’m incapacitated and brain dead? Do I want to authorize my wife to pull a plug or do I want to be on life support, no matter the cost? Who will pay for that?

If I die, can my family afford to even bury me? Where do I want to be buried? Do I want to be cremated? Do I want bagpipes played at my funeral? Who do I want to give my car to? My paintings?

I know some of this stuff sounds trivial, but we’ve all seen the sad reality of people fighting over TVs and couches and even someone’s clothes, when someone dies. It’s especially bad when it’s a large amount of money.

The other awful reality of when someone dies prematurely is not only do loved ones mourn the awful news, but then they are confronted with having to choose between $3,000 gravesites and $5,000 coffins. Oh and by the way, you have to pay an extra $1,000 for a concrete case to go around your coffin because it’s illegal in most States to just put a box in the ground. Want a grave marker? Those are about as expensive as a Hollywood engagement ring. Want a long obituary? Yeah, try $5 per line per day. Heaven forbid there be an expensive helicopter ride to the hospital before you pass. Or an amputation or life saving surgery that still ends in death.

I know none of this is fun dinner conversation. I hate thinking about it too. When a dear friend of mine passed away unexpectedly years ago, I’ll never forget how much these topics added to the stress we all already felt. My friend’s family was quite well off, and even for them it all felt so dirty, expensive, and exploitive. And then the mortician made us all feel worse when we picked the economy version from their coffin selection. He looked down his nose as if we were despicable cheapskates who somehow cared less than those that blew $20,000 on the Rolls Royce option. Just awful.

Losing someone is never going to be easy. But I firmly believe that like anything, having a thoughtful plan in place and a little bit of insurance goes a long way to helping those left behind not feel an added financial burden. I couldn’t imagine leaving my family in terrible debt or even causing them to go bankrupt because I didn’t take the time to plan.

Here’s something else to consider. What if by chance someone decides to sue you. This happens all the time. Someone slips on your sidewalk or chokes on your food in your family’s restaurant. Remember when McDonalds was sued by two guys who spilled coffee on themselves? I have a friend who owns homes that he rents out. One of his tenants decided to kill his girlfriend in their rental home. After he beat her to death in their bedroom, he came up with the brilliant idea of throwing her body down the steps so he could argue that she fell and died. To make his case more convincing, he filed a frivolous lawsuit against my friend, the landlord/property owner. The lawsuit ended up costing him 10s of thousands of dollars.

Luckily, he had the money to defend himself. And fortunately for him, he won. But imagine if this person’s case was less frivolous and some Judge decides that you as a landlord are somehow negligent in the accidental death of a tenant really falling down your stairs. What liability would you have in such a case? Maybe you didn’t know this but in some cases of fraud or negligence, even your insurance may not be there for you. I’ve seen people have their personal assets taken in a civil lawsuit in order to satisfy a business Judgement. Even an LLC won’t protect your personal assets if a Judge determines you committed some fraud. Try explaining to your spouse that you’re losing your home and all your assets that you both thought were protected. But, if you’re smart and prepared, you will get a Trust set up to protect your assets.

I assumed a Trust would cost at least $10,000. And a Will I figured I could do online for a few hundred. But then I met an Estate Planner in Salt Lake City. His price for both? Only $600! “What’s the catch?” I asked. His response made a lot of sense:

“If I can help people set up something this important, for so little money, and I can take the stress out of the process, people then usually will trust me when they have other financial questions. It’s a great way for me to serve my community and meet future clients.”

His response and his candor for whatever reason impressed me. It’s kind of like how when people offer you a free sample of something at Costco or Great Harvest. It allows you to get a taste of the quality before making a purchase. I know for a fact that my friend loses money offering this service.

For only $600, and that includes a Lawyer’s fees as well by the way, it has made a lot of sense for us at IREA to recommend this solution for our clients in Utah. It’s a no brainer and everyone who has ended up using this service has thanked us for the referral.

I should also mention that we don’t make a penny if you decide to use our friends for a Will and Trust. End of life planning is simply a part of our Education at the Intermountain Retirement Education Association.

So, what are you waiting for? Get the peace of mind of knowing that your affairs are in order in the event of your untimely passing.

Will Social Security Be There When I Retire?

If you're like most Americans, you've heard the rumors that Social Security funds may not be there when you retire.  While there is a lot of misinformation out there, it's important to stay in the loop on such issues, and most importantly, to get the facts.  Here's an interesting article on Medicare finances by Market Watch.