Friday, July 24, 2015

Do You Have an Estate Plan? by Roz Denny Fox


I ask this very personal question because I think it’s so necessary and because I recently saw a report that said 65% of adult Americans don’t have even a simple will.

Getting a will was something Denny and I did first thing after each of our moves when he was in the military and then worked as a telephone engineer. Those companies moved us as often as the military did. We did this because a woman’s group I belonged to before I was married had a speaker on the importance of having a will. Most states have involved and often different laws governing estates and/or custodial laws for what happens to minor children. There are states where if parents don’t have a will designating who gets custody of their children should parents die together in an accident, the children are automatically made wards of the court. And a judge decides who will raise your orphaned children.

Some people I know think they’re too young to make a will, or that it’s too expensive. For many it seems a far-off need. In truth a will lets you control what happens to your property and family after you’re gone.
You no longer even need to make an appointment with an attorney. You can make a will, a living will, or a living trust by going online and doing it yourself.

What a simple will can do:

Name the person you would like to manage your affairs.

Transfer property not distributed in other ways.

Serve as a public record of your wishes.

Suggest a guardian for your children if applicable.

Include provisions designed to minimize the impact of taxes that may be due.

A simple will cannot transfer property such as a home, investment and bank accounts or automobiles and other assets owned jointly with another person.

Life insurance benefits are not included in a will, but in the beneficiary papers you sign at the time you arrange for life insurance.
A simple will does not transfer assets outside the probate process. (Important to know—see below)
You should find out if your state’s probate process is automatic at the time of your death. If it is, probate costs can be high, and can take time, and freeze your assets. To keep from having probate funds taken off the top of the money you leave, a trust or a living trust should be set up in conjunction with your will.
So the truth is—a will is an effective way to make sure those you leave behind are taken care of in ways you wish. It’s true that if you don’t have a valid will that your assets will be divided according to your state laws. It’s true that even if you have a small estate, your heirs still benefit from you having an up-to-date will. And it’s true that owning assets jointly with spouse or a partner is not a substitute for a thoughtful will.

I know it’s difficult for some people to imagine, think about, or talk about death. And yet those same people care about the people they love. In addition to making a will that distributes your assets, you should have a living will that spells out whether or not you want to be put on life support should the need arise. A living will spells out exactly who you want to make decisions about your medical care should you become too incapacitated to make those decisions for yourself. And as writers, we need to assign someone to handle our intellectual property in case we’re unable, or after our death. That person may or may not be the person you name to handle your financial affairs. These are all things that need attention while you have all of your decision-making facilities intact. As difficult as it can be to get your heirs to discuss these matters, they need to be taken care of.

So I’m writing this as a gentle reminder that it doesn’t pay to not plan. You have earned your property. You have a right and a privilege to distribute it in the manner you wish after you no longer need it.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Look for my next Heartwarming book: Molly’s Garden   August Release

35 comments:

  1. Congratulations on the book release, Roz. This is a conversation I've been trying to have with my husband (periodically) for many years. I'm going to make him read your blog! -Vicky

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Vicky, I hope your husband listens. I had a good friend whose husband died shortly after I lost Denny. They didn't have anything and long after our estate was settled she battled probate and had to hire an expensive attorney to help her out after the fact.

      Delete
  2. Thanks for a timely reminder, Roz. I wrote my own will, downloading the forms needed for my state. But this reminds me I need to update it! And congrats on your book release!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Patricia, my sister-in-law and her husband did that, too. And it's so easy now, but something a lot of people don't have on their list to do. I know people who think they don't have enough of an estate to plan. Everyone has more than they think.

      Delete
  3. Hi, Roz! Congratulations on the book - I really want to know what's in Molly's Garden. Your blogs are always filled with good information and advice. Our wills are three simple pages of instructions notarized by a friend and left in the dining room hutch (I'm afraid no one will ever find anything in my office or Ron's studio!) Sent a copy to each of the kids. It's simple but I think it does what it's supposed to.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Muriel, I'm so glad you have everything in order. It gives a person a sense of peace. We also always gave our kids copies after they moved away. Funny, but neither of my daughters wanted to talk about it, so we dealt with our sons-in-law.

      Delete
  4. Hi Roz,
    Great blog. My hubby and I are in the process of updating our estate as wee speak. Timely topic!

    Denise A. Agnew
    www.deniseagnew.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Denise, Good for you. If a person moves, adds on to the house, writes more books, updates are good.

      Delete
  5. Roz, this is so very important for all of us to read, do and cross off our "to do" list.
    And updating existing wills is just as important.
    I love your books and can't wait to read about Molly's Garden!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Catherine, thanks. And this morning when I turned on the news I saw of another terrible movie theater shooting. Honestly it's that one never knows when we'll be unexpectedly called home. Sad as that is to say.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow, Roz, this is good information! I always assumed that anything Pete & I left would go to each other or our only child without us having to do anything, but it sounds like that might not be the case after all.

    My parents have a "death drawer" with all their info in it, because four kids make things a bit tougher to distribute. But doggone it, now I'm betting WE need to do something too!

    Laurie, who'd much rather be reading Molly's Garden :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Laurie, especially in AZ which is one state where you need POA and a trust to keep things from going to probate.

      Delete
  8. Great advice, Roz! I have a Will, POA and AMD, but they need updated. Do you happen to know a reputable website?
    Congratulations on your latest book, Roz!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jill, my sister-in-law and her husband, then their kids used Legal Zoom.com. They were happy with it, but I can't personally recommend a site.

      Delete
  9. Great info, Roz. It's been on the back of my mind that a will is something we need. Glad you brought it to the front. Molly's Garden sounds great :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Pam, if my blog gets people to move the notion up in their minds I'm glad. We used a lawyer here that we met at the Home Show. We hadn't changed our will from when we lived in Texas. We went to his office and it didn't take long at all to get everything changed to comply with AZ laws.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thank you for the thoughtful reminder, Roz, to those who do not have a will. A living will is also very important.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Kate, you are so right. I can't say enough positive things about living wills and having powers of attorney to handle all decisions both medical and financial if your spouse becomes incapacitated.

    ReplyDelete
  13. We're the original putter-offers so thanks for the reminder, Roz.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Liz, I'm glad it brought this to your mind again.

      Delete
  14. What a great and informative post, Roz! We've had an estate plan for years, and from the moment it was finalized to this, we've breathed easier, knowing that our daughters and grandkids will be spared years of legal hassles down the road (a long, LONG way down the road, I hope)!

    You've given us a great gift by sharing this, even if all you accomplished today was to plant the seed in their minds. So thanks! And here's hoping your week's end and weekend will be wonderful! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Loree. Having a plan in place does let you breathe and sleep easier.

      Delete
  15. Hi Roz!
    Thank you so much for this blog post. We have a trust that we set up in Florida, but I didn't realize that we needed to update it when moving state...and we've moved to two other states since then.:-)
    I'll get on that this week. You just never know.
    Hope your summer is going great!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shannon, that single aspect does surprise people. And we're such a mobile society any more. Summer is going good so far. Hope yours is as well.

      Delete
  16. Amen to all you've said Roz. All you have to do is go through an estate without a will and you will know how difficult you've made it for your heirs. Even with wills and trusts the process is a pain. One form always leads to 10 more. One job done leads to ten more. sigh. Can you tell I have just been through this? Listen to Roz folks. She is giving excellent advice here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sandra, so true when you are the child dealing with your parents estate. A lot of people have to deal with it long distance, too. Life isn't easy, you'd think they'd make death easier. But no such luck.

      Delete
  17. Roz, great reminder and wake up call for those of us who haven't taken care of this. I had planned to talk to my attorney about this after my short sale completes in September, and now I have a more detailed list of what to ask. Hope you're having a great summer!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad it's something you can get done at the time you sell and settle someplace else. Glad your sale is going along well.

      Delete
  18. Thanks for this informative and very important post. I've been procrastinating on taking care of some of this. Thanks for the gentle reminder.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Laurie, I'm so glad no one felt I'd overstepped the bounds of what writers should talk about. But this kind of thing is so necessary. I wish it wasn't. Thanks for stopping by.

      Delete
  19. Thanks for this reminder, Roz. I know there are things I still need to take care of.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Patti, it's hard to set aside time in our busy lives to get these things corralled, but like I just said to Laurie--really necessary since we all travel so much, etc.

      Delete
  20. A very smart reminder, Roz! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Great post Roz, in addition to all you suggested, I also have a Pet Trust with a Trustee designated to ensure they go to good homes and money set aside for their care. I really only had it all done so I could do the Pet Trust. :)
    Tara Simone

    ReplyDelete