One: I hate my children and want them to never speak to each other again after the battle over my estate.
Two: I hate my spouse and want him or her to suffer the agony of attempting to probate my estate without a will.
Three: I think foster care is great and I want my minor children placed there while a court decides which greedy relative will get custody.
Four: My family doesn't need the money so I want the government to take as much of my estate for taxes as possible.
Five: I have reliable information that I am never going to die.
Of course the above is written tongue in cheek. However the tragedy of the Twin Towers, the battle over freezing Ted Williams body, and now the sniper shootings in the D.C. area are bringing to more Americans a deeper realization of their own mortality and that of their loved ones. The American Bar Association estimates that 70% of Americans do not have a will. The median age of those killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center was 39 and over two thirds of those killed were men. This is the age group least likely to have a will and the court battles will last for many years after the physical scars are erased.
A case in point is the story of a young lady from Atlanta, Georgia. Her parents divorced when she was a baby and her mother died several years later. Her aunt took in the child and worked two jobs so the niece could graduate from college. The young lady was ambitious and bright. After college she excelled in her job and which allowed her to buy a house and a new car. Eventually the aunt became disabled and was taken in and cared for by her niece. One foggy morning a crash on an Atlanta freeway ended the young lady's life. Without a will her entire estate; home, car and bank account; was awarded by the court to two half-sisters that she had met only briefly at her father's funeral. The aunt was forced to enter a nursing home. Unfortunately what is fair is not always what is legal. My wife Carolyn is currently involved in a court battle over her mother's estate. A family member confiscated the will and has refused to provide any information in defiance of a court order. It has been over a year and the estate is still in limbo. Much of the emotional stress and most of the legal bills would have been avoided if an attorney had been in possession of a copy of her will.
Review the five reasons not to have a will and ask yourself which one applies to you. I will also be glad to add any new reasons to the list. One that is not acceptable is that it costs too much.
Nolo's Willmaker software is available online at a cost of approximately $40.00. Pre-Paid Legal Services http://www.prepaidlegal.com/info/carolynpatterson will prepare a will for you and your spouse without extra charge with a membership and offers reduced rates on trusts and other estate legal issues. An attorney that specializes in estates can be located through your state's Bar Association. Whatever route you chose, don't leave your final arrangements to the whim of a judge
Wayne Patterson owns two successful construction companies and has been featured in the national Constructor magazine. http://www.solidgoldhomebusiness.com