As an auctioneer, I have worked with relatives of the deceased whereas the deceased had died “intestate”, that is to say, without a will. In most cases it was not fun because of the infighting that took place. Items were being pulled from the auction because, “Grandma promised me I could have this when she died.” Then another relative would interject, “No, she had promised that to me.” The deceased wishes could have been ensured through a properly drawn will.
Estate planning, which includes drawing up a will, can thwart the battle over estate assets. The will is a legal instrument for distributing property, saving taxes and avoiding probate. You don’t have to have a big estate with many assets to justify having a will. Having your wishes carried out is more important than the size of your estate.
Do you need a simple will or a more sophisticated will that creates a trust upon your death? Even though I was a financial planner in my former life (before becoming an auctioneer and real estate broker), I am not qualified to tell you what needs to be in your will or what kind of trust, if any, needs to be set up to keep your estate intact as much as possible. You need a good attorney that understands wills and trusts, or even one that specializes in estate planning, and not some general lawyer that deals with traffic tickets, drunks, divorces or lawsuits.
You may want to initially talk with a certified financial planner (CFP) to get things going and get a better understanding of some of the problems you may encounter and understand some of the terminology the attorney will be using. I would suggest using a fee only CFP and not one that gets paid through commissions. If you don’t know of anyone, ask your insurance agent, friends or just Google it for your area.
Estate auctions can be fun for all the parties involved, if property planned out before the event. It is never too late, while living, to sit down with family members and discuss what will take place after your death. You can save a lot of heart aches.
How important is a will? Very important unless you want the state to determine who will receive your property, that is, after the Feds and the State get their share. Don’t wait, “just do it.” You’ll be glad you did.