A recent client had me write “mirror” wills for him and his wife. This means that if the husband dies first, the wife gets everything, and vice versa. The couple had a young son.
A month later, the wife past away. The husband found out that his late wife, previously divorced, did not change her 401(k) retirement account payable-on-death beneficiary. Now the widower is in a fight for money that never was intended to go to the former husband, but rather, toward a college education for my client’s son.
Most people believe that a will is for “old people.” An 18-year-old single mother could never use a will to try to suggest who would be the guardian of her child, right? A new professional family that has young children could never suspect that a catastrophe could occur, right? A family that just sent its kids off to college and started a new life could not believe that health problems would arise, right? I have been presented with all of these situations and more.
Every family needs family planning. Call it “estate planning” or whatever you want. Let me put it this way: If I passed away today without my will, a wonderful and brilliant 5-year-old would run my law office and write my articles (Hello Barbie and Justin Bieber! There are some disclaimers and exceptions ... but you get my general point.)
Getting your basic estate documents together can be inexpensive. I know many attorneys in our region that will charge you no more than $500 for your basic documents. But you need to also bring all your account information and retirement accounts with you. Sometimes an appointment with an estate/family planning attorney is best coupled with a financial adviser in these situations.
I know we all believe tomorrow is not our last day. Unfortunately, a few clients and a really good friend believed the same thing. Just a small investment to get your estate in order will take the risk out of the future financial security of your family.