A will with a pen.

Everyone Needs a Will

By Denise Keiser, Fund Development Specialist 

Recently we learned that celebrity icon, Aretha Franklin, died with no will or trust in place to instruct the disposition of her wealth, which has an estimated value of over 80 million dollars. So this brings a question to light – at what level of wealth do you need a will? 

No matter how much – or how little – money or assets you have today, you need a plan for them upon your passing.  

Planning for end-of-life events is no easy task. In fact, most people forego it all together.   

According to a recent survey conducted by Caring.com, only four out of ten adults have estate planning documents like a will or living trust in place. That means that nearly 60% of adults is leaving a financial burden for their family members or loved ones to handle upon their passing.     

“When you do estate planning, it’s not just for your benefit, it’s also for the benefit of your heirs who are usually your family and loved ones. The reason is that you want to prevent disputes amongst your heirs when you pass away,” said Elder Law of Michigan Attorney, Christine Steinmetz. 

A will is a legal document that states your final wishes for the disbursement of your belongings upon your death. It ensures that whatever you own goes to your heirs or whomever you designate as beneficiaries as you see fit. Dying without a will or trust will leave such decisions in the hands of your state’s law, called Estates and Protected Individuals Code, or EPIC.   

So, now that you know you need a will. What do you do next?    

Take these steps to prepare for the drafting of a will: 

  1. Make a list of everything you own (checking, savings, investment/retirement accounts,vehicles, furniture,jewelry, real estate, life insurance policies, etc.).  
  2. Decide whoshouldget what and who should be in charge of your estate distribution. 
  3. Write it down.

When you’re ready to draft a will, you may need to seek legal and tax advice from professionals depending on the complexities of your situation.  Older adults in Michigan seeking advice on estate planning may contact the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors for free legal advice.  

Give your family or loved ones the gift of an estate plan. You’ll likely bring them some certainty and peace of mind during a time of grievance upon your passing. 

For more general information on estate planning, read Elder Law of Michigan’s blog posts about wills and trusts.