Most people have given some thought to getting wills written, but we all think we are going to live forever…or at least for a long time. Most of us are right. However, now during this frightening time, many of us are reconsidering our mortality.
We are beginning to think about what would happen to our houses, bank accounts, cars, and other things we own, should something happen to us. Actually, the Commonwealth of PA has already made the decision for us with regard to a substantial amount, if not all, of these assets.
If you are married and living with your spouse, most likely, your home, cars, and bank accounts are titled in joint names, and our spouses are named as beneficiaries of our life insurance policies and retirement accounts. In PA, these assets go “by operation of law” (more or less automatically) to the surviving joint owner-spouse, the joint owner(s) of any deposit accounts, and the named beneficiaries of retirement accounts and life insurance policies. Wills do not and cannot affect these assets. So those of you that are married can heave a sigh of relief.
However, what if you are not married or are a widow or widower, or you have a long-term partner to whom you want to leave your estate, or you want to leave your assets to your family members (or others) unequally? What if you have a church or a charity you want to leave a part of your estate to? What if you have a special needs child? What if you want to name the most financially stable of your family members as executor of your estate (An excellent idea)?
In that case, you should seriously consider having a will prepared which will make sure your estate will be distributed in the way you choose. From long and sad experience, we can confirm that the ugliest fights are among family members after a loved one dies without having made provisions for distribution of his or her assets.
Consider consulting a lawyer to advise and assist you in drawing up this plan. You can prevent hard feelings and the waste of hard-earned money on attorney fees for battles amongst your heirs. Maybe the COVID-19 pandemic crisis is your signal to take care of that important but long-delayed matter of having a will prepared.
As Benjamin Franklin noted, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Stay well and be safe.