Okay, I know what you're thinking: how is a will sexy? The fact is that having a simple estate plan is something that most people just don't think much about until it's too late. So, I would argue that being prepared to take care of your loved ones is perhaps the sexiest thing you can do this new year. That said, here are five reasons why you need a will (spoiler alert: one is that if you have group legal it's free).
Reason #1: Because the state sucks at making decisions for you.
Let's face it: you wouldn't want someone from the State of Washington deciding what color to paint your house. Why, then, would you want the state to decide something even more important: who gets your stuff when you die?
Here's how this works: When you die without a will, you are said to die "intestate." When this happens, there are a default set of rules that govern who gets what. Let's say that you are married without kids. Your mom and dad are still alive, but you're relationship is strained. If you die without a will your wife gets everything, right? Wrong!
RCW 11.04.015 provides otherwise. According to the statute "the net estate of a person dying intestate . . . shall be distributed as follows . . . the surviving spouse . . . shall receive . . . (c) Three-quarters of the net separate estate . . . [if] the intestate is survived by one or more of his or her parents."
This means that if you die without a will, don't have children, and your parents are still alive, your parents get 1/4 of your stuff. Maybe that works for you. Maybe it doesn't. I don't know about you, but I want to be the one that decides who gets my favorite flamingo lawn ornaments. It's even more complicated if you have children (or if you call your pets your children).
Reason #2: Someone has to take care of little Suzie or Mr. Pickles
Most of my clients are motivated to get a will after the birth of their first child. When my wife and I were in this situation, we instantly felt mature the day we signed our first will. The fact is that if you have children, your will and estate plan is critical. It not only provides instructions about who will take care of your children in the event that you both die, but it also provides information about who takes care of your children in the event that you're simply incapacitated.
Here's the scenario: Your children are at school. You and your spouse are in a terrible accident and unconscious. Who picks up the kids? What if they need medical care? Who authorizes that? Don't leave this to chance.
As an aside, another thing that a good estate planner will help you consider is whether or not you have enough resources to take care of your children in the event that both you and your spouse die. The most-common answer is: "Sure, I have life insurance through work." That doesn't cut it, though. What happens if you lose your job. That life insurance goes "poof" just like those sweet benefits. If you're older, you may find yourself priced out of affordable life insurance. Our advice is always to purchase a term life insurance policy while you're young. Ask us about it.
You're probably thinking: I don't have kids, so why do I care? If you have pets, you should think about this, too. Washington allows you to set up a trust to take care of your pets (most states don't) as long as your pet has a backbone (I know, it's weird, but it's the law). Even if you don't have a cat or kids, you probably do have bills, and you definitely have a body. A good estate plan helps with that, too.
Reason #3: Someone has to decide when you can't.
This happened to my family not too long ago. My wife's mother and father were both hospitalized and incapacitated. A bill needed to be paid right away, but the problem was that no one was authorized to make financial decisions.
Even worse is the scenario in which you are incapacitated and someone needs to make a medical decision, such as whether or not to authorize a potentially risky surgery. Who does that?
A good estate plan addresses both of these topics. When you work with us, we provide you with two key documents: a Financial Power of Attorney and a Heathcare Power of Attorney. Both of these documents allow you to decide who gets to make these important decisions in the event that you can't. We also help you express what happens if you are not going to recover.
Reason #4: Because your family shouldn't have to decide if you live or die.
In 1990 an almost 15-year battle began. In that year, Terri Schaivo suffered cardiac arrest. She was resuscitated, but she had massive brain damage. Eventually, she fell into a persistent vegetative state. Her family wanted to keep her on life support. Her husband claimed that she told him that she did not want to be kept alive in this state. Unfortunately, she didn't write down what she wanted.
In the end, the case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and the husband prevailed. I don't know for sure, but I would assume that Terri's family hates her husband to this very day. Don't let this happen to you.
Washington law allows you to decide what you want if you are ever in a similar situation. Do you want to be kept alive? Fed? Given water? You get to decide. Do your family a favor and - if nothing else - do this.
Reason #5: It may not cost you a thing.
Assuming you don't have a lot of stuff ("lot of stuff" being less than 2M in assets in Washington), a simple estate plan doesn't cost an arm-and-a-leg. In fact, we do it for a flat fee of $600.00.
If you have group legal through your employer, such as ARAG through Microsoft, your group legal provides this as a benefit, and it won't cost you anything out of pocket.
In sum, having a simple estate plan is critical. Make a resolution to create one (or update your existing plan) today. Contact us at 425-615-6304 to make an appointment today.