Turns out, she did write a will. Several, in fact.
Only problem is, it seems not a single one of the hand-written documents was vetted by an attorney, witnessed, or notarized — not even the one found under some seat cushions (interesting filing system).
All three have been sent to probate to see if they’ll stand up in court and have any bearing on the distribution of her estate. But if I were her heirs, I wouldn’t hold my breath. And I’d get ready to empty my wallet for the legal fees, too.
The Takeaway: Think
Let’s face it: Estate plans aren’t sexy. It’s scary to think about death, and what comes after. But do you know what’s even scarier, at least to me?
Leaving my friends and family to have to figure everything out after I’m gone. Leaving my loved ones to deal with probate court, sort out a financial mess, lose a fortune to taxes and the government, and wonder why I didn’t care enough to take care of the details — all while they’re grieving.
Get an estate plan done. Do it the right way, and make sure it’s legal in your state. If you’re concerned about the cost of an attorney, there are other legal options — but trust me, having a lawyer dot the i’s and cross the t’s is well worth it.
Seat Cushions? Ain’t No Way That’s Smart
One other important point: Make sure your heirs know where to find your will. Estate experts agree this is a very common problem. So keep it in a safe place. Keep a copy in a safe deposit box. And ensure that before your passing, your heirs will have access to (and knowledge of) both.
Even better, involve them, to as much degree as it makes sense, in your estate planning. Find out how your children want to divide things up. See if your brother would also like to make a planned gift to remember Dad. And maybe, just maybe, find out if Cousin Greta really wants your entire collection of Chia pets.
Whatever you do, don’t follow Aretha’s example. Or Prince’s. Or Bob Marley’s, or my dad’s …
No wonder my clients like one of our titles for our estate planning guides, “Don’t Worry. You Don’t Need a Will. The Government Will Take Care of It For You.”