Do You Really Need a Will?

A lot of people put off going to the dentist until they have an unbearable toothache. A lot more people ask, “Do I need a will?” and realizing they do still put off getting a last will and testament until they die! It is all a part of the natural tendency to avoid pain that we all share in common.

In the first case it is the avoidance of physical pain. In the latter case it is avoidance of mental anguish. Thinking about anyone's death is somewhat unpleasant. Facing our own death head on by consciously writing out a last will and testament is often unthinkable.

So we just put it off. We don’t anticipate never getting it done. We just plan to wait a little longer. But in the end, it often never happens.

Why We Need to Have a Will?

Often people assume that the only reason they need a last will and testament is for the physical distribution of their home, money and other property. Most just assume, too, that if everything is pretty much held in accounts with more than one name on it there is really nothing to be concerned about. Unfortunately, it does not work out that way.

1. Without a will, some states require proportional distributions to children as well as spouses. Especially where there have been multiple marriages there can be incredible complications and expenses. Sometimes spouses, in particular, are left wanting as a result.

On the other hand, some states leave everything to the spouse and a late, second marriage may result in children and other long time family members left with nothing even if the second marriage was only for a few days.

2. In almost all families there are heirlooms of one sort or another, such as a valuable (or sentimental) piece of jewelry like a wedding ring, or some family favorites like grandma’s rocking chair. If you really want a certain person to receive this item upon your death you need a will.

3. We cannot avoid the potential for tax issues either. Family members now have limited exposure in the United States, but these laws change often. What non-family members receive is another question. Legal advice is really needed since laws vary by states.

4. Personally, my wife and I had a severely handicapped child whose needs naturally instilled a great concern for us. It is extremely important for people with special family situations like ours to plan how unique needs will be provided for in the event of death.

How to Prepare a Will

In view of all these issues, it is clear that virtually everyone needs a will for one reason or another. So how shall we go about preparing it?

First, learn a little about wills by reading from some good educational sources. Hopefully this article and the one I have written about the basics of wills will get you started.

A really profitable idea is looking at some sample wills. One helpful one can be found at: This is an interesting resource because it is annotated to point out why different elements need to be stated in certain ways.

With the help of printed and online guides, you can prepare a will for yourself. But personally, I think it best to consult with a lawyer to complete your last will and testament.

Working through the process beforehand can dramatically reduce the time needed with the lawyer—as you know a lawyer’s time is measured in dollars—because this is one place it is worth spending a few dollars to make sure you get it right.

You Do Need a Last Will and Testament

Do you need a will? Almost certainly. But your last will and testament is only a thought without effect until you make it. Follow W. Clement Stone's classic advice, “Do it Now!