Recently, investigative reporter Dana Fowle of Fox 5 made a confession in her segment on “Good Day Atlanta.” She doesn’t have a will. Unfortunately, she is in the majority of Americans as more than 50 percent don’t have a will. Despite having a husband, a daughter, and assets that include a home and a car, she has no written plans for how her assets will be distributed, no executor, and no medical directive.
Dana came to my office to discuss estate planning, the facts about online wills, and why nearly everyone needs a will.
Why You Need Estate Planning
A will is a large part of any estate planning, but estate planning also includes an Advanced Medical Directive that allows you to select the person who will make decisions about your health in the event you are unable to and a Power of Attorney, which is to permit someone else to manage your assets if, again, you cannot do so.
Your will, of course, provides for the distribution of your assets but also names an executor, the individual who has the responsibility to see that your wishes are carried out.
What Happens in the Event of Your Death?
Dana and I discussed the fact that if she passed away, most of what she had would go to her husband, which is what she wants and one reason she hadn’t given too much thought to have a will. However, a portion of those assets would be held for her daughter and her husband would have to have a hearing and jump through some hoops to be appointed the administrator of Dana’s estate. He would then administer the estate the way he saw best – all while grieving.
Many times, transferring assets is not so simple. If you’re 25, unmarried, have no children, and pass away, by law, your assets are divided equally between your parents and siblings. If you have been married and have children, it gets more complex. Second marriages, stepchildren, estranged siblings, and other similar situations will make dividing up your estate much more complicated. I cannot over-emphasize how much financial and emotional pain will prevent.
Types of Wills
Dana briefly touched on online wills in her segment. There are a variety of things that can go wrong with an online will. For example, Georgia law provides for a somewhat complex will execution process to prevent fraudulent wills. It’s easy to make a mistake. Having an attorney prepare the documents will ensure that you dot the i’s and cross the t’s. Online wills are generally one-size-fits-all and not your best option.
You can also get a basic will through an attorney for as little as $200-250. While that is much better than nothing or an online will, I recommend getting a quality attorney knowledgeable and experienced with estate planning who can spend the time necessary to create the best will possible for you.
Dana proclaimed her lack of will was “an error in judgment.” If you don’t have a will, contact an attorney to ensure your assets are distributed and decisions about your health are made according to your wishes, not someone else’s.
Watch Dana’s complete segment on “Good Day Atlanta” and read the accompanying article on the Fox 5 website.