Will Writing Reluctance

I have met many people who would benefit from having a will for their property, but do not as a result of a condition I call “Will Writing Reluctance.”  There are varying causes of this condition.  The most common cause is the “Forever Fallacy.”  This is based on the misconception that there is an infinite amount of time to make a will.  I confess I suffered from this.  I prepared a will, but did not sign it with witnesses.  One day I scheduled elective surgery requiring anesthesia.  I thought about my wife and son andthat whenever one has anesthesia, there is a possibility that something could go wrong and I would not wake up.  That was what it took for me to get the will signed and to give the original to my wife.  Many circumstances illustrate the Forever Fallacy.  Forever ends when there is a fatal accident. A crime can end Forever. Forever ends when one’s mental faculties become so eroded by Alzheimer’s disease or dementia that there is no longer the sound mind required to understand a will.  The Courts are full of legal challenges of wills of people who thought they had forever and waited too long. Forever ends when an addiction runs its course. I have been in a hospital at a will-signing for a person in the last throes of an addiction.  The cure for the Forever Fallacy is to use your imagination about the situation that will be faced by those left behind, and to empathize with them.

Some people worry about being “Jinxed.”  They fear that making a will hastens their death. I recommend they consult a spiritual adviser about this.  I have not seen any unexpected sudden death among people who make wills.
 
Will Writing Reluctance also results from “Attorney Aversion.”  I have had clients who had a bad experience with a prior attorney.  Their reluctance to see another one was understandable.  However, they had a misconception that all attorneys are the same.  There are reasonable attorneys, reasonable as to fees and reasonable to talk to.  A telephone call would help with this. Sometimes hiring an attorney now can save a lot of money that the inheritors would have to spend paying attorneys in the future, because some disputes can be avoided.  Speaking to more than one attorney before choosing one is common sense and can be reassuring.

Another cause of Will Writing Reluctance is thinking there is “Not Enough” property or “Not Enough” of a positive relationship.  When it comes to property, people with this condition may overlook that they do have something of value to leave for a friend or relative: personal property, which includes household property or jewelry, collectibles or books. Or they may be surprised by inheriting from somebody who dies before they do, by having a legal claim that is settled in their favor, or, in the case of creative people, leaving intellectual property. The bottom line is to discuss whether there is “Not Enough” with a trusted friend or adviser before making a decision to not have a will.  If there are “Not Enough” positive relationships for a will it is a warning of unhealthy isolation.  

In sum, whether you or somebody you know is suffering from Will Writing Reluctance, as described above, there is hope. #

It is 9 a.m., do you know who your beneficiaries are?

I remember a television public service announcement  that showed a nighttime scene of a city street and an announcer saying, "It is 10 p.m., do you know where your children are?"  I imagine the parents who saw it asking themselves that question and being concerned if they didn't know the answer.   Here is another question, it is 9 a.m., do you know who your beneficiaries are?  These days people have jointly held assets including accounts payable on death, IRAs payable on death, annuities payable on death, coops that are jointly owned, or jointly owned homes.  It is important to know that a Will or a Trust does not override the joint ownership or beneficiary designations in these documents.  If left as is, these items are inherited "by operation of law" regardless of the language of a Will or a Trust.  These are also known as non-probate assets.  Estate planning requires knowing every beneficiary of every account and making an estate plan based on the total picture. #