What’s the big deal, you ask? Wills are expensive, and countries have rules for handling these kinds of things anyway, right? While that’s true, there can be severe consequences to not putting an estate plan in place.
Here are some real-life short stories to help you understand why having a will is correctly written, and maybe other additional documents to ensure that your wishes are adhered to when you are no longer here.
“One client was a business owner with a $3 million estate. He passed away at age 62 with no will, no spouse, and no kids. Nine siblings were left to fight over his assets. The family of siblings was probably dysfunctional before, but this brought out the worst in all of them. The whole process was ugly, and it took 18 months to close the estate.”
Children get nothing; new wife gets everything:
“I had a friend whose father had remarried years after his first wife had passed away. The father had just retired when he suddenly required hospitalisation. A week later, he died. He had no will, and at that time in Massachusetts, the default was that the current spouse got everything. The children found themselves with nothing—the new widow was nervous about having sufficient assets for the rest of her life and so would not disclaim any of the inheritance. As a result, the widow and the children didn’t speak to each other for years.”
Life insurance ends up in the wrong hands:
“I had a client who was a married couple with two young children. The husband was my primary contact; eventually, he became completely unreachable. After several months, I lost complete contact. Eventually, I found out the husband became addicted to gambling and alcohol. They divorced, and he committed suicide. His life insurance named ‘spouse’ as beneficiary, but she was no longer his wife. It went to ‘next of kin,’ which was their children. It sounds great, but since they were minors and there was no will to establish a trust, the state stepped in to manage the money. The mother had to return to work and hire a nanny for the children. She asked probate if she could take the money that was paying the nanny so she could stay home with the kids. The answer was no”
Heirs are left trying to find everything:
“As wise as my father was, he never created a will or documented his assets and their locations. He died one day before 9/11, and I am still trying to finish up his estate all these years later. It was a monumental detective work to figure out exactly what he had and where. Further complicating matters, the assets were in multiple countries and continents.”
The process is time-consuming and expensive:
“I had a client who had been married to his wife for over 35 years. His wife passed away in California without a will or trust, which meant court filings and probate to get him named as the sole rightful beneficiary of her assets. It took us a lot of legwork to get his wife’s assets transferred into his name, even once the court approved it. In the meantime, she had assets we could not touch or manage. Her death was an untimely accident, and she probably expected to live much longer than she did, but given the assets she and her husband had, not having an estate plan caused unnecessary expense and lost time.”
Writing your own wishes allows the authorities to understand your requirements and your nearest and dearest. It can save them time, extra cost, and needless scrapping, which may result in a long-time of not speaking to each other.
It makes more sense for you to put your requirements down than for everyone to guess and fight. This saves time and costs and much less red tape for those you leave behind.
Please feel free to contact us at www.careysuen.com if you have any questions.