Thinking about Making a Will, but not managed to get started? don’t worry, you are not alone. Unfortunately, many people procrastinate the estate planning process for a variety of reasons. People might think that estate planning is complicated, time-consuming, or will cost them hundreds of dollars in fees.
According to a survey by legal insurance firm LawPRO, 56% of Canadian adults do not have a Will, more than half of them because they either don’t know how to get started or think they can’t afford to. The numbers are almost identical south of the border: the American Bar Association cites 55% of American adults as not having a Will or estate plan.
If you’re familiar with the Will writing services USLegalWills.com provides, then you already know that this doesn’t have to be the case; creating a Last Will and Testament doesn’t have to mean a time-consuming and complex process, and doesn’t have to cost you hundreds of dollars. Despite this, we can still be our own worst enemy, like the almost half of adults without Wills who don’t report any major cost or time concerns, yet still find cause to delay the process. Here are a few reasons not to wait; take control of the process now.
#1: Making a Will is easy once you get started.
Making a Will really doesn’t take that long, especially when you can do it on your terms and not on somebody else’s. Once you get started, you’ll realize how quick a process it actually is. You might even be done before you know it.
Maybe you’ve heard of people using the “few minutes” rule of productivity. We delay starting things because they seem arduous before we begin, but once we’re in the middle of it, they aren’t so bad. To get started in the first place, some people set aside a small amount of time to start working, and find that the task often completes itself. Motivation can take a bit of initial effort, and your brain’s reward pathways can be a bit like an engine, hard to start but easy to keep running once started.
A child who puts off cleaning her room, for example, can probably be talked into “just giving it five or ten minutes.” By the end of those few minutes, she’ll be invested in the process and in a good workflow.
If you are thinking of making a Will, it might be worth giving some consideration to the more difficult decisions before you start.
Who will be your Executor? have they agreed to take on the role?
Who would make the best guardian for your children? Have you considered all of the family dynamics associated with your decision?
Do you want to leave anything to a charity or some other organization? Many people are charitable during their lifetime, but miss out on the easiest and most beneficial opportunity to help charitable organizations. A gift of 1 percent of your estate can make a massive difference, but is hardly noticeable to your other beneficiaries. The size of the bequest is likely to be a much greater donation that you could make while you are alive.
Will there be any other specific gifts? Your Will is a great way to show appreciation for friends and relatives, or help out people in need. It is common for people to leave a bequest to a niece to “travel the world” or a favorite guitar to a best friend.
How will the rest of your estate be distributed? If you are married with children, this is usually quite straightforward. But if you do not have family, this is something that you should carefully consider before starting the Will writing process.
Once you have thought through these questions, the actual process for making a Will would probably take less than 30 minutes.
#2: You never know.
Most of us like to imagine passing away among friends and family after a long life well lived, but as we all know, accidental deaths can happen suddenly and without warning. According to Department of Transportation figures, there were 32,675 automotive fatalities in the United States in 2014 alone. If you carry over the American Bar Association figures from before, that equates to around 18,000 families who not only had to deal with the sudden death of the victim, but also the consequences of dying intestate (without a Will). Aggressive illnesses are no different; your energy and focus should be spent on treatment, recovery, and loved ones, not on beginning the estate-planning process.
Furthermore, if you wait until you are close to dying, you actually open yourself up to a Will challenge on the basis that you were not thinking straight – you did not have testamentary capacity, or you were not of “sound mind”. If you are making a Will, you must have the capacity to know what you are doing and be under no undue influence.
Dying intestate can happen to anyone; Prince, who earned an estimated $270 million USD during his life, made financial headlines for dying without a Will even though he spent his life surrounded by lawyers and financial advisors. If a sudden death can leave an estate as valuable as Prince’s without a plan, it can happen to anyone.
#3: Clear up confusion, foster peace of mind.
Some people delay making a Will because they make assumptions about how their assets will be divided without one. They make assumptions about the legal system based on what they’ve heard, and they likewise assume that their family will be able to navigate the legal system while negotiating over their estate. In reality, it’s never safe to make these sorts of assumptions, especially when Guardianship issues arise surrounding children. You can easily avoid disputes among family while giving yourself a say instead of taking legal chances. Procrastinating a process measured in minutes can leave your grieving family with months or years of ambiguity and strife.
#4: Have a plan for assets, big and small.
The term “estate planning” can be a bit misleading to some because it seems to imply a large scale. People might not think to make smaller, more personal gifts, or they may even assume that they have too few assets to justify estate planning at all, to the potentially disastrous point of not making a Will in the first place. Lots of people, even those that find talking about death unsettling or scary, find it relaxing and fun to plan small personal gifts, like heirlooms, records, and so on. It’s an opportunity to surprise loved ones and to share memories with them even after you pass.
#5: There’s no reason not to start Making a Will now.
It might make sense to procrastinate on a Will if you had to set aside time and hundreds of dollars to make a routine change. Maybe you are waiting until your life settles down – you are getting married in a few months, or expecting another child. Fortunately, you no longer have to wait. USLegalWills.com makes it easy to review, revise, and re-print your Will whenever you see fit, so you can update your Will whenever life throws anything new your way. You’ll never have to book an expensive appointment just to change a small detail. Starting the estate planning process “early” will give you the context to make smart decisions as you plan for the future throughout your life, even as things change.
Tim Hewson is one of the founders of USLegalWills.com.
He has over 20 years of experience helping people to write their Will and other estate planning documents. He has been interviewed by many of the major news media outlets, and has contributed to articles in The New York Times, NY Metro Parents, U.S. News & World Report, and other leading publications. He has also contributed to a number of financial planning books.
Throughout his career, Tim has written extensively on the subject of Will writing and estate planning.
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