Thoughts, ideas, suggestions and education from financial adviser Jim Ludwick, Founder of MainStreet Financial Planning, Inc. of Odenton, MD; Washington, DC; New York City, and Santa Barbara, CA

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Why Don't People Take My Advice?

Why don’t some people take my advice especially when it comes to making a will?

Frequently I’m asked, or offer advice on my own initiative, about do-it-yourself wills and other estate planning documents.  Estate planning documents can mean a durable power of attorney (durable means it is still valid during incapacity or physical absence), advance health care directive (medical power of attorney), living will (how you want to be treated), revocable trust (living trust) and memorandum to your executor about your personal effects and funeral/burial arrangements.

OK, that’s a mouthful in the previous paragraph.  What’s my gripe this time, you ask?
You didn’t ask?  Well, here it is anyway.

When I worked in two different bank trust departments we loved it when people died without a will and left things in a mess because of it.  It was even better with lots of property or accounts without beneficiaries or unreachable beneficiaries. That meant our fees got paid (we didn’t take on cases where we couldn’t get our fees). 

Judges frequently sent this work our way because we were good at getting resolution no matter how long it took, or how much it cost.  Notice the bank was interested in how much it might cost the estate and where the money was to come from for our fees.

How bad can things be when someone dies without a will or maybe an advance health care directive and is incapacited?  Think Terry Schiavo of Florida.  Remember her plight?  Google her name to get the story in full, but I’ll tell you she went into a coma without much chance of recovery and her husband and her parents fought a battle (15 years) whether to pull the plug, or not.  Messy.

Attorneys make the rules and attorneys reap the rewards when people don’t follow the rules.  They like battling heirs.  Everyone makes money here except the heirs.  Why? No written instructions (will) or proper title (joint tenants with rights of survivorship, for example) or an identifiable beneficiary are typical ways to end up in court where the judge decides.  Everyone is sure what the decedent (dead person) intended, but never got around to completing in a written form.

So now we get to Do-It-Yourself.  I have several articles I hand out that make the case for or against this method of doing it on your own without an attorney.  My premise is just do something.  Don’t end up in the “Would, Coulda, Shoulda” category. It is a mess that you leave behind.  No one knows when our number is up. Think of your family or friends or organizations that will have to deal with the consequences of your inaction. 

Not motivated? Then think about the attorneys who might get a new boat because of your reluctance to put it in writing.  Now that should get you going.