Prince’s sudden death earlier this year left the world stunned. The legal world was shocked. Why? Because Prince died without a will. Collectively, the legal community said- How could this be? A man of his wealth and estate must have had an army of capable attorneys, but yet failed to plan for the inevitable. While this is shocking considering Prince’s wealth, it is not uncommon to die without a will, for obvious reasons. In order to create a will, you must be able to sit and contemplate- at length, your own death and make a plan for your loved ones to move on. These are incredibly weighty considerations.
As lawyers, we find ourselves often working in the most uncomfortable spaces of people’s lives. It is not often that you are meeting with us under circumstances that are happy. When it comes to estate planning, this may be an (ahem) grave understatement. The upside to all of this is that we are very comfortable in this space and we are skilled at making it a positive experience for you.
For starters, we use the term “estate planning” because it’s more comprehensive than “will-writing”, and let’s be honest, it’s also much friendlier. In all seriousness, estate planning is an apropos term because it’s an opportunity for you to plan how your tangible legacy will be administered among your loved ones. You have earned that estate and have also earned the right to determine how it is to be used and distributed, even in your absence.
If you die without a will, you will be considered “intestate.” Since this is a common occurrence, your death will trigger an onslaught of default laws to distribute your wealth after your death (“intestacy”). Your estate will be divided up systematically according to the laws of your state, usually going to blood relatives or current spouse. But what if you want to cut off that ungrateful man-child living in your basement? Well… you have only one option: Make a will.
Dying intestate not only disrupts any plan you may have had for your loved ones, but it may end up being costly and time-consuming for people who are grieving. As with most legal proceedings, the process may takes years to sort out.
The good news is that, unlike death, intestacy is entirely preventable. Just make a will. The process requires formality and some statutory elements, which is why it’s incredibly important to have your will drawn up by a reputable, experienced attorney.
You may have learned from movies that if you write on a napkin and stash it away till your death, you’ve made a will. You may also think that if you’ve destroyed a previous will, your estate is no longer bound by it. Here’s a special lawyer insider note: the movies are often wrong. Writing a secret document may not satisfy your state’s requirements for a valid will. Tearing up a copy of your will (or any contract for that matter) often does nothing to negate that document. Good luck watching movies ever again. Welcome to our world.
As skilled attorneys, we will be able to collect information from you and discern your wishes to help you have a comprehensive plan for your estate. We will also safeguard the original document in the event of your death, so there are no worries if you are a little scatterbrained.
Everyone knows they are going to die. The smart ones make a plan for it.