At dinner last month with a large group of my thirty-something friends, we were marveling at the oddity that we still see ourselves as 20 year olds. Is it because we grew up listening to hit songs entitled “Forever Young” with lyrics promising immortality and the hope of staying young forever?
As my friends and I were talking about growing up in a “forever young” themed decade, the topic took a shift to the flip side; youth fades and death is certain. I found a perfect segue to my topic of interest; estate planning! I was excited for a lively discussion about the testamentary trusts everyone had for their kids, but instead, I got blank stares and uncomfortable silence. No one wanted to admit the truth; not a single person, other than me, had a Will. How could this be? Are my friends brainwashed by the 80’s youth mantras and do they honestly believe they are immortal? They may think they are forever young, but they can’t be forever irresponsible. My advice to them and anyone without a Will, consult one of our estate planning attorneys!
LOYALTY TO FAMILY FIRST
Estate planning sounds intense, but in reality it is not. In fact an estate plan usually consists of a handful of documents. When I asked my friends why they did not have a Will the consensus (other than their dream of being forever young) was they “don’t need a Will because if they die their spouse knows what they want and they trust their spouse to do the right thing.” My friends were under the impression that making a Will might be a slap in the face to their spouse and a discredit to their loyalty. Quite the contrary, making a Will is an act of love and respect for your family. A Will memorializes your wishes and allows you to decide how your assets should be distributed upon your death. Making a Will shows your family that your loyalty to them transcends time. If you do not have a Will, the State of Washington decides on the distribution of your assets through “intestate” laws. If you think it is a show of disrespect to make a Will and have your assets pass according to your wishes, imagine how your spouse would feel if your assets had to be split with your parents? That is the risk you take if you die intestate; some part of your separate assets would be distributed to your parents, not outright to your spouse.
Even if you aren’t sure who you want your property to be distributed to, you can still make a Will. In Washington you don’t have to distribute all of your property in a Will. You can reference what is called a “bequest by list” and distribute your stamp collection, your prized badminton trophy, or other tangible personal property to whomever you put on that list.