The Unintended Consequences of Leaving Without a Will
We all know that writing a will is a good idea, but many of us never find the time to get around to it. “I’m too young. I don’t have anything to leave behind. I’ll set my affairs in order.” These are all statements many of us have used to procrastinate creating a will, or refute the idea altogether.
A True Story
When Mark, aged 55, suddenly died in a cycling accident, his family was left with nothing but a mess. And that’s all because he had thought he was too young to have a will or a medical directive.
So, upon his death, a wife no one knew about came out of the woodwork, and because of Mark’s lack of paperwork, his children were cut out of any retirement funds he’d had prior to their marriage. As a result, she inherited all his property.
If you want to avoid this kind of thing happening in your family, get a will organised, otherwise you risk leaving them this ‘will’ instead.
My (Unintended) Last Will and Testament
To my family and loved ones: I hereby leave you several months, possibly years, of financial hardship and expense while you go to unnecessary lengths to sort out my affairs.
To my spouse or partner: I hereby leave you some (but quite possibly not all) of what I own.
To my children: I hereby leave you the remainder of my estate, including the family home, which you must sell to realize your inheritance.
To my children and grandchildren: If you divorce, I hereby instruct you to ensure that half of what I have left you is payable to your ex-partner – so they have ample money to look after their new partner and any future children they have.
To social services: If my children are orphaned upon my death, I hereby give you the power to choose who should look after them, including sending them to unknown foster parents.
To the taxman: I hereby leave you all the tax I could have avoided paying and would otherwise have been able to leave to my family.
To the local authority: I hereby authorize you to force the sale of my family home and liquidate any investments I have to pay for my care. I realize this could make the local authority the major beneficiary to my estate.
To my disabled family members: I hereby leave you funds to replace any state funded benefits you receive, so they can give that money to others who are not related to me.
To my solicitor and/or bank: I hereby authorize you to take whatever actions you feel necessary to sort out the mess I have left behind.
To everyone else I leave nothing.
It sounds harsh, but sometimes we need to face the reality of the facts. And the number one fact we should pay attention to is that, by default, we risk the above happening if we don’t take action now, even if we think we don’t have to. One day, it’ll be too late.
What do you think a will can do for your family? Have you prepared one? What about a medical directive? Let’s have this tough but important conversation in the comments below.
Jane Duncan Rogers runs Before I Go Solutions, a not-for-profit organization that helps people design and create their end of life plans. An award-winning coach, she is author of Gifted by Grief: A True Story of Cancer, Loss and Rebirth, and Before I Go: Practical Questions to Ask and Answer Before You Die. Find out how well prepared you are for your own end of life by taking her free quiz.