4 Excuses We Make for Not Having a Will
by A.J. McKnight
We explore the common excuses people make for not having a will and one good reason just about everyone has for getting a will drawn up now.
In a 2020 estate planning survey by Caring.com, only 32% of Americans reported having a will. That means about two thirds of us do not have a will for one reason or another. So just what are these reasons? And are they good reasons or just misguided excuses?
Here’s a look at four typical excuses many of us make for not having a will, and the one main reason just about all of us should have one.
1. I don’t have assets of any real worth or children.
This is typically the excuse voiced by young adults. As a 20-something, your assets may not amount to more than a car, a checking account and a small 401k, if that, and you may not be married nor have any kids. But those few assets could cost your parents, siblings, or anyone else stuck settling your estate countless hours and possibly dollars if you were to pass away intestate (without a will).
Many young people fail to recognize that a will is not just to protect your assets. It is also to protect your family. And in your 20s, that often means your parents as opposed to a spouse and kids. Sure, your situation is going to change several times through your life, and it will mean revising your will, possibly several times. But once you get your initial will done, it is that much easier to make revisions as needed.
And what if you have a parent or sibling whom you would not want to inherit any of your estate, regardless of how small? You better have a will designating such or the courts will follow the laws of your state to divide your assets.
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2. Everything will just go to my spouse.
Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. It all depends on the laws of your state. Per the laws of some states, parents and even siblings may be entitled to part of the estate of a child or sibling who dies intestate regardless of marital status or number of children. Also, your spouse may be required to pay a bond in order to settle your estate if the courts have to get involved because you have no will.
If you want to ensure your estate does pass to your spouse without him or her jumping though legal hoops, make sure you have a will.
Related: Estate Planning Without Your Spouse
3. I don’t want to deal with some family issues that writing a will might bring up.
Will your sister be offended that you have designated your older brother as guardian of your children in the advent of your death? Do you want to leave one child a bit more of your estate because you have already given another child far more over the years?
Sure, putting together your will can mean thinking about and even facing sticky family issues many of us would rather avoid, but it is better than the alternative of having the court grant custody of your children to your sister or your children fighting over your estate in court.
4. I cannot afford an attorney.
Many people who do not have a will assume they cannot afford an attorney. Unless you have a large number of assets or a complicated estate, paying an attorney to write up a basic will is not likely going to be that pricey, but you do have other more affordable options.
You can write your own will. Just note that you do need to be careful to comply with the laws of your state or your will won’t hold much weight in court after your passing. A better option is to write your own will with the help of legal software or online site. While a legal site or software package is no substitute for a lawyer, either will allow you to put a basic will in place until such time you can afford an attorney.
Choose a software package or site that will guide you through the input of any information that might be relevant to anything you would like to include in your will, as well as prompt you with questions you might not think to consider. A good program will also inform you of any state laws you need to be mindful of in regards to your will and alert you to estate situations that really require a lawyer’s expertise.
Get a will to protect both your loved ones and your assets.
Although most of should have a will, many of us don’t. No matter your excuses for not yet drawing up your own will, the best reason most of us have for creating one is to protect our loved ones from a potential time-consuming and possibly costly legal mess.
Unless you trust the court system to decide how your estate should be divided, perhaps it is time to consult an attorney or use an online legal service to finally get that will written and your assets and loved ones protected.
Reviewed April 2021
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