Saturday March 1 marks the beginning of Make a Will Month. I can find no information on the origins of this event, but I believe it’s a creation of the nonprofit sector, having as dual purposes encouraging people to make sure their affairs are in order and leaving some money for those in need.
Whatever its origins, Make a Will Month provides an excellent opportunity to focus on the task that, for far too many of us, always seems to be at the bottom of the “to do” list. For some the delay factor is perceived immortality. For others it is mortality and the fears that attend the certain outcome we all face. And for others the issue becomes “who will handle the children,” “there won’t be anything left to worry about,” or “I don’t know who should get what I’ve got,” or something else. All are fine excuses for inaction, but they are excuses, plain and simple.
Does not having a will or a trust matter? Sometimes it doesn’t. Intestacy laws—the laws that apply when someone dies without proper planning documents—result in everything being left to a surviving spouse, in equal shares to a surviving spouse and children from another relationship, or to surviving children if there is no surviving spouse. There’s also a whole chart that directs the distribution when no spouse or children are alive.
That said, if you have minor children, the intestacy laws make a probate almost certain and guardianship proceedings more complicated. And, while your children will not likely end up in foster care, you won’t have any say about who raises them. If you have a particular distribution scheme that matters to you—you want your youngest child to have your home, for any one of a whole bunch of good reasons—the intestacy laws won’t permit that distribution. Want to leave money to charity? Forget about it.
March represents a fine time to get your affairs in order. I will be presenting a simple program, twice, on estate planning matters in late March. Stay tuned for dates and times. In addition, many nonprofits have free programs throughout the month. Plenty of attorneys offer special deals, making it more difficult to let another month—and, likely, many more months—pass without taking action. (I left special deals behind a while ago. Fair prices and attentive service are always what we offer, and I am available.)
Now, briefly, a few thoughts about the nonprofit sector! Leaving a legacy represents an opportunity to “pay it forward” by investing in something you’ll never see, in the form of changed lives and, with them, more opportunities for more people to fulfill their hopes and dreams.
That’s my pitch and it’s all you’re gonna get! I don’t ask clients about leaving money to charitable organizations, even though I have spent many years as an active volunteer/ leader in that sector. I assist my clients in fulfilling their wishes, and it’s not in my job description to have them help me fulfill mine.
There are many amazing groups that make a real difference in our community. Two of my favorites are Literacy Connects and Primavera, but there are many, many more groups doing hard, hard work, trying to improve the lives of those whose sticks are short and, in most cases, have been short forever!
In closing, if you missed the message—people can be tough when it come to this subject—GIT ‘ER DONE!