Learn from these costly goofs and protect what you love!
1. NO WILL: The best way to ensure your wishes are not carried out.
Whatever the size of your estate (one cat or closer to the biggest donor to the SPCA of all time) a will will help to ensure that your requests are honored in the way you meant.
For example, Amy Winehouse’s lack of will inadvertently left $6.7 million estate to the courts.
Did she want to endow a particular charity? Did she want to give back to her fans? Did she want to support a special loved one? There was no legally valid way to know without the will.
No will, means that your State will decide…remember that aunt you didn’t like?
2. NO TRUST: The best way to ensure your wishes become public.
A will is a public document and thus can be viewed by the public if not protected by trust. This means that all your assets, debt and preferences are open to anyone.
For example, Whitney Houston didn’t have a trust, so her will was read in court for everyone to hear, as well as read, later (think ‘court transcript’).
If your prefer some privacy, then make a trust.
This legal document manages the distribution of your will’s wishes. It provides the system to execute what your will want, rather than leaving it to the court, which is also much more costly.
3. NO UPDATE: The best way to ensure an ex-anything gets everything.
If you have any significant life change, it’s smart to update your will and trust to accurately reflect your most up to date wishes.
For example, Michael Crichton’s never updated his old will, which did not cover future children, even though he was on hospice and his latest wife was about to give birth.
Months in court and millions later the new baby was allowed some benefits, but it would have been a whole lot less stressful had the legal documents been easily kept current.
If you have new kids? Recently change partners – business or romantically? Don’t forget to have an attorney update your documents too!
4, 5 & bonus 6. NO POA/NO AHCD/NO POLST: The best way to ensure your wishes aren’t carried out (whilst you’re still alive)!
A properly drafted power of attorney, along with an advanced health care directive and physicians orders for life sustaining treatment, are the key documents to give clear legal authority to your decisions when between life and death.
For example, Etta James waited to sign her POA until she was already incapacitated. This left her family and the court to fight out the validity of her wishes for care whilst between being able to decide for herself and death, despite having a will and trust.
Avoid confusion, conflict and court, ensure that you have all these documents legally validated by your estate planner!