Why is this, you ask? There are a multitude of reasons for why individuals do not create a Will or Trust. The latest statistic I saw was that nearly 65% of individuals pass away without a Will – even though 100% will die. Unfortunately, Aretha fell into the majority. This means that her “estate” will go through the probate process (I can’t even begin to imagine how much lawyers are going to get paid on this one!) and her estate will be distributed in accordance with the “intestacy laws” of Michigan’s Oakland County.
I could go on and on about the importance of planning; avoiding probate; keeping an estate private; etc. I have wrote about these topics many times – yes, planning is important; yes, avoiding probate is recommended; and yes, maintaining privacy sounds desirable. What I am much more concerned about is exploring the reasons why people do not do a plan … let’s chat about them, shall we?
- “I’ll get to it eventually. It’s on my to-do list.” But what if you do not get to checking everything off that never-ending to-do list and a catastrophe/tragedy happens? It is too late, my friend.
- “Having to go through an attorney to get it prepared will be expensive.” There are many types of plans – some are basic (which would not be costly) and some come with a bit of a price tag (advanced planning). Though, if it were me, I would want to have the peace of mind knowing the plan was done by an appropriate professional. There is no price tag on that.
- “I’ll just get the documents done online.” You get what you pay for. I often tell clients that online services are often our best referral source – they tend to miss something and then the family (or whoever) pays us later to “clean it up.”
- “I don’t want to think about/talk about dying.” I get the fact that it is certainly not the most fun topic to discuss in the world, but it is also certainly one of the most important topics to discuss. Passing away is a non-negotiable; consider the possibility that doing an estate plan is the best gift you could give to your beneficiaries.
According to USA Today, Aretha’s entertainment lawyer, Don Wilson, claimed that he “…was after her for a number of years to do a Trust. It would have expedited things and kept them out of probate, and kept things private.” There were likely additional, more substantive conversations than just that – and he may very well know the reason why she never did the planning. Was it the “I’ll get to it eventually” attitude? Or the fear of talking about death? We may never know.
Unfortunately, I hear the reasons above entirely too often. Coincidentally enough, if I am meeting someone for the first time and they ask what I do, I’ll say that I do estate planning. More often than not, the individuals responds with, “Oh, I need to update my Will” –or—they will say, “Oh, I need to do a Will.” I usually respond, “Well, why haven’t you?” and the back-pedaling commences. That, my friends, is exactly why 65% of individuals pass away without a Will. Are they legitimate reasons? Or good ol’ excuses? I know what I would pick.
My recommendation? Don’t be like Aretha … have more R-E-S-P-E-C-T for yourself. Do an estate plan. We promise we can make it easier than you think. Just click here to shoot us some information and we'll be in touch. Or, join us for our upcoming workshop.
Jennifer Rozelle, JD