Losing Herman was one of the hardest things that had ever happened. It was so sudden, but what was even more expected was when Mary found out that the home she and Herman had enjoyed for their 12 years of marriage was now owned by his ex-wife. She was truly devastated. Why had they not updated their wills? Now everything, including the house, was now property of his ex-wife.
When Beverly found out that her daughter and husband had been killed in a car accident it seemed like nothing could get any worse. But just as shocking was finding out that she had to prove that her health was satisfactory before she could gain custody of her grandchildren. After six months spent proving her health status, her grandchildren were released from Foster Care into her arms.
Nobody likes to think about dying – especially when thinking about themselves. But wills are not about you, they are for the people you leave behind. And for them, it is the best gift ever!
And one should be very clear regarding any terms of the will. I know siblings who did not speak to each other for decades due to promises of items that were not specified in the will. In fact, it all started over a dining room table. This situation literally led to lawsuits and split the family.
So, what happens to your “Stuff” if you die without a will? In short, your estate becomes Intestate. Since each state has its own process for Intestacy, this makes it even more important to make sure that you have a will in place.
Succession laws of each state can vary, but in most cases a surviving spouse is appointed to serve as the administrator of the estate, then children, grandchildren, parents, and siblings. This administrator, also known as the personal representative, oversees paying off any debts and allocating remaining assets.
“Stuff” is one thing, but what about your child(ren). If parents pass without a will, it is up to the court to decide who will have guardianship of the child(ren). Though judges do their best to act in the best interest of the child(ren), they do not know family dynamics and other factors that may be important. To know that your children may be placed in a home or situation that is not of your choosing should be enough to make any parent get their will done.
There is so much more that can be written; there are so many issues involved with a loved one’s estate. Having managed estates with and without a will, I can honestly say that having a will is the way. In today’s complex society of relationships and partnerships, the best gift you can leave to your family is your words of wisdom and direction – your will. The pain your loved ones feel after your passing is hard enough