In the wake of Prince’s death at age 57 in April, many people stopped to reflect on the impact his music had on their lives. I stopped to reflect on the importance of wills.
You see, it seems the pop superstar didn’t have one, forcing a judge to place a corporate trust company temporarily in charge of his multimillion-dollar estate. If history is any guide, we will soon be seeing headlines about legal disputes among his loved ones and business partners.
Well, okay, we’re talking about Prince, and chances are you didn’t make a fortune off of songs about little red corvettes or raspberry berets. But if anyone close to you has died, you know that there are immediate decisions to be made, no matter who the deceased was and what he or she left behind.
It should be a no-brainer that those of us with children would want to ensure that after our deaths, our assets are used for their benefit (and not for taxes, legal fees or court costs) – and also that they, or their guardians, aren’t saddled with difficult questions that we could have answered ahead of time.
And yet…most of us put this to-do item off, even when we know better. According to the American Bar Association, 55% of Americans die without a will or estate plan in place. My husband and I were among those procrastinators for THREE YEARS after our first child was born, and a year-and-a-half after our second came along. (Seeing that in writing makes me cringe: Bad Mommy and Daddy!)
It took the sudden, untimely death of a family member to finally get us back on track earlier this year, and I can say with great relief that we now have directives in place that cover not only guardianship and distribution of assets, but also those deeply uncomfortable but vital questions about our own end-of-life care.
Mercifully, with the aid of a good estate planner like we had, the actual completion of these documents is pretty painless. It’s not fun to think about your own demise, obviously, but my husband and I tried to approach it with the mindset that it was one more thing we as parents were doing to protect and support our kids. And, to be blunt, we’re all going to die. Putting these questions off is not in any way preventing the inevitable from happening.
So just suck it up and make a will, if you haven’t already. Then go and party like it’s 1999 with greater peace of mind.