Yes, Really, You Need a Will
No one really likes to think about what happens with their stuff, or “their estate,” once they pass. But we need to—because our family really needs us to figure all this out ahead of time.
Because they’re going to be sad and grief stinks. Folks often say to me, “Once I’m gone, I don’t care what they do with my stuff.” And while I get it, they care—your family cares—and leaving your kids and spouse, friends and family, without a guidebook for how to grieve and how to share those things that remind them of you behind—can cause them to suffer.
For example, if you have a stepson that you adore, who helps you every weekend with the gutters, the A/C, the trash, and you have a biological son who lives across the country and doesn’t talk to you much, when you pass without a will, that stepson won’t get a thing. Or you got remarried after your first wife passed, and your grown children are doing fine on their own but your second wife is not so well off, she gets an “elective share” of no more than one-third—is that what you really intended? Or if you have a specific wish for how you would like to be buried or not buried—cremated—and your children disagree, it makes sense to give them your wish as a tiebreaker, right?
Why else do you need a will? Because kids fight. Sometimes over money. Sometimes over a painting or a truck or a piece of furniture. I’ve separated siblings squabbling over furniture. We’ve seen like ugly throw-down level fighting, completely out of control craziness when there’s no will. So help ‘em out. Get your will done ahead of time.
There are firms that are situated in Leesburg, Lynchburg, Harrisonburg with presences in Winchester. David Cox, for example, runs Cox Law Group and he’s solid in all respects. David Cox has offices in Lynchburg and Winchester, among other locations. Hannah Hutman, a 2006 William and Mary grad, works out of Hoover Penrod in Harrisonburg, and I commend you to her: she’s an outstanding bankruptcy lawyer. And the various iterations of Blue Ridge Legal Services (BRLS), my former employer, offer effective representation to the indigent for both chapter 7 and chapter 13 personal bankruptcies. The most experienced of the legal aid attorneys I’ve worked with is Jim Clough. He’s a good guy and a good lawyer.
What Can We Use to Help Your Family?
If you want the basic documents, you should get a will (Last Will and Testament), a durable power of attorney (POA) and an advance medical directive (AMD). A will should be drafted by an attorney—I know they sell wills for a few hundred online, but the cost of getting a will from me or any other local lawyer is not much more—and we will do it right. We know what needs to go in there and what we cannot put in there: for example, you cannot order people to do certain things, like sell an asset someone else owns.
What do I mean? Wife dies. She leaves a will asking her son to sell her house. Problem? She lived in the house with her husband, and he is still alive. He is also the current owner of the house, which they owned together, as husband and wife.
What’s a POA? Say you’re out of the country. Your son crashed your car. Someone needs to sign a check over to the mechanic from the insurance company. Your agent, the person you designate in your POA, can handle that in your absence. Or more dramatic: you get in a plane crash. You survive! But you’re unable to walk for a bit. So you can’t go to the bank. That’s okay—your agent can go for you and take care of your business. In other words, a durable POA is something that lets you delegate important tasks to someone you really trust.
Finally, an AMD. You may know this as a living will. It’s what doctors and nurses ask you about—just in case something happens to you. Nothing is harder for your family than to make those decisions about whether to pull the plug, or whether to hang on, so please make sure you have made your wishes known. I’ve seen a client suffer because his sister didn’t give guidance to the family before she fell into in a coma. And for real, if you do want to live no matter what, if you believe in miracles, then make sure you get that chance to find your way back from the other side.
Let people know your wishes ahead of time.
Okay, so you need a will, yes? Next week I want to talk about another document we use to help your family out—and also help reduce your taxes and the whole process after you pass.
Please call us to set up an appointment. We charge $800 to draft all three documents (or what we call the “trifecta”) for you. If you’re a couple, the second trifecta’s on us. As in for free.