Wills are definitely not things people want to think about. After all you are discussing what will take place when you die. We all want to believe that we are invincible and will live forever but that is not realistic.

John Singleton died yesterday. It appears from the family infighting that is starting to take place, he does not have a document that articulates his wishes. Why? Prince died and he left nothing in place for when he is gone. His estate will remain in arbitrary for god knows how many years. The biggest beneficiaries will be the lawyers.

I know many people with children who have not dealt with their wills. Perhaps Fred and I are just practical but we believe not having a will especially when you have children is irresponsible.

Many people I know have parents that are getting old and dying. Many of them have not left buttoned-up estates. It is left to the executor of the will, if there is even that, and the family to make decisions that might not be what the parent wanted. More to the fact that it can create major fractures in family relationships. That is not good.

The first question people ask after learning of a parent’s death is, “did they leave a will” or “did they leave an organized estate”? It is not easy to put your affairs in order at any age but grieving is hard enough on everyone left behind. Leaving a will is as important as balancing your checkbook.

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    Redid everything recently. Feel much better.

    1. Pointsandfigures

      Yup. You never know. Bus driver might be texting.

  2. ahoova

    It is not enough to create a will/trust, but to let the beneficiaries know what to expect. Surprises in a will can also have long lasting effects on the family and relationships. We have had conversations with our parents about wills and trusts. One set of parents have an updated will and the other set of parents refuse to create a will. We live in a country (israel) where if a person does not have a will, the estate is automatically split in half. One half of the estate goes to the living spouse and the other half of the estate is then divided up for the children. This means that the kids can force a parent to sell their home so they can collect their legal inheritance. I can’t wrap my head around this concept.

    1. LE

      This means that the kids can force a parent to sell their home so they can collect their legal inheritance. I can’t wrap my head around this concept.If that situation exists then there is a much larger issue in the family that should probably be addressed?Surprises in a will can also have long lasting effects on the family and relationshipsTrue but by the same token discussing it years before a death can create other issues in the present. For example let’s say you want to leave one child, relative etc. a larger portion. You then ‘disclose’ that to the relevant parties and have to deal in the present with bad feelings as do the people that are impacted (positive or negative). I don’t think that is a good thing.As far as the parents that don’t want to have a will obviously that is their choice to make. Maybe they are even afraid that what is in the will will get out and if it does create some issue in the present day (so they are kicking the can down the road).

  3. DeborahJane

    Everyone really should…several of my contemporaries (62) younger and older have died recently …cancer…stroke…heart attacks…so really not just for our parents…or people with children. If you have sizeable assets, no matter your age…otherwise it ends up in probate. Leave your assets to family members…or charities …anyone but don’t let the state decide.

  4. LE

    I know many people with children who have not dealt with their wills.There are actually several human nature reasons that I have identified (not something that I have read; but something that I actually think) as to why people don’t want to make wills and it may be surprising.A will for anyone with any reasonable amount of assets involves making many decisions. In particular what to give and who to give it to. Who gets more and who gets anything at all. Charity and so on as well. Future decisions that you have to make in the current.At first this may appear to be straightforward but it’s not. For example what happens when you have multiple children, relatives and assets are not even clearly defined? Who gets what? The will will be public at the very least for any family members and quite possibly more people. Is it implied that you give the same to everyone of a particular ‘class’? What if you don’t? What will they think? Why did Susie get more than John? What happens if you have step children? What happens if you like one niece more than another nephew? Do you have to treat them the same or can you play favorites? If you play favorites what will people think. (Of course you can do what you want and you will be dead but obviously it would create anxiety to just think about all of this). Will some relative resent you if you give more to charity than they received? Once again does it even matter? (You are not around but thinking about it will stop you in your tracks possibly and even give you guilt). What happens if you give money to your children and they are married? What if it’s a new marriage; what if they are possibly getting divorced at the time your death? Do you want the spouse to have access to the money that you gave your kids? These are not simple things to think about until you are actually sitting and having to make decisions. Of course if you have a boatload of money (whatever that is) you can cover many bases and maybe not care. (Like Jeff Bezos wife..)Not saying it can’t be done it can but it is a great deal to think about.I am reminded when my father died. He didn’t leave my cousins any money. Even though I got more money I thought this was actually a mistake (contrary way of thinking I guess). Why? Because I thought it would be better if he left them money. For one they paid a great deal of attention to my Dad (not for money reasons by the way they just liked him) and I think it would probably have not made them feel in some way disrespected by not being left out. And as a result quite possibly our relationship (post death) would be a bit better. (Nobody said anything it’s my speculation..).What’s funny is when death rolls around nothing is simple. I remember being in the room to pick out the casket for my Father. Guess what? Before that happened I would never think it mattered at all since it was going in the ground. But honestly it did matter to me I wanted a nice casket (and casket selling is fascinating a well oiled machine by the way..) and I actually spent a fair amount of time (with my sisters and mother) figuring out what I thought was the ‘best’ casket. Very strange and would have never predicted my behavior until I was actually there. Reminds me of something in the Steve Jobs book about the fence. It matters even though you will never see it. Maybe that is just me and the way I think.The legal part is the easy part but the decisions are difficult to make. Perhaps many people w/o wills have actually gone to get wills and then never completed the process.

    1. EB

      Just an opinion – even though I don’t know your family — Maybe your father wanted to leave your cousins something — but trying to figure it out, and how to do it fairly, was too much pressure. No one would think bad of him to leave his own kid money. But now you have the power to do what you want with the money — and if you felt they should get something – you can give it. And then you would have some peace of mind instead of speculating.

  5. daryn

    “Leaving a will is as important as balancing your checkbook.”I thought this was an interesting choice of comparison, since I don’t have a will, and I don’t balance my checkbook. The latter is due to two main reasons: having enough in the bank to not worry about over-drafting, and improved technology that allows me to write less checks and to see my bank balance in near real-time. I wonder how the will and life insurance industries can be changed in the same way.I agree we’re being irresponsible (it’s my daughter’s 10th birthday today, by the way!), but both wills and life insurance have been marred by professionals who seem about as trustworthy as the personal injury lawyers that advertise on TV, we don’t have a personal lawyer, and it’s hard to know where to start. Definitely seems like there’s startup opportunity in this space.

    1. daveschappell

      Hey Daryn — first, you really should have a will — that’s crazy that you & Brooke don’t have an estate plan & will — if you’d like a good Seattle introduction, let me know. Also, there are a number of startups pursuing the will/insurance/family-wellness space, and one is right in Seattle, founded by serial entrepreneur and great guy, Dave Hanley — it’s called Tomorrow.me — I’d be happy to introduce you to Dave (he was VP Marketing at Shelfari; co-founder Banyan Branch, and much more). PS Yes, I’m an investor 🙂

      1. Gotham Gal

        Good advice. Daryn…you should take Dave up on that. It is insane that you do not have a will.

  6. TanyaMonteiro

    Surprising to learn that John Singleton’s father was a financial advisor, or maybe not…..

  7. Pointsandfigures

    When we did our will I learned a lot about the law. For example, if my wife and I are in a plane crash, I die first. Dying as a resident of the right state can make a big difference as well. Being a resident of a state like NY or IL when you die can cost you big. It’s not that I have told my kids that they are going to get a huge inheritance-but if there is any money leftover when you die it would be nice to pass it along since it’s already been taxed several times already.For the ultra wealthy like the Kennedy’s etc-they can afford the legal bills to offshore assets and create permanent wealth.I’d be for ending all estate taxes nationwide for everyone. Governments don’t reap a lot of money off of it and like you said above, lawyers and accountants do.