Why as a Professional Organizer do I take it upon myself to encourage clients to complete a Last Will and Testament? Because over the years I have learned it is a task that lands at the top of the “things I avoid” list. Helping clients get organized involves more than cleaning up piles of clutter or re-organizing spaces. The work naturally ventures into how time is managed and how tasks get done. Often the struggle managing time and getting things done is the root cause of the disorganization. Also helping clients be prepared for unexpected events; a natural disaster, an emergency, a death, is what we organize for.
Why make a will? Can’t the state handle it? Can’t the kids take care of it all when I am gone? Yes, but do you want the state to and should the children have to?
There are number of reasons to have a will:
So the people you want to receive your assets, do and in the amounts you want
To appoint a guardian for minor children
To appoint an executor to handle the estate affairs per your wishes
To make a difficult time less difficult
So your heirs can avoid a lengthy probate process (all estates go through probate, a will speeds up the process)
Without a will, your estate is divided up based on state rules. The wrong party may get all the money!
To minimize estate taxes
To make gifts and donations
All good reasons, but then why do people still procrastinate? I am talking people of all economic levels, age groups and backgrounds. This is pretty much a universal phenomenon.
When I explain Stephen Covey’s Four Quadrants to clients we focus on two of the quadrants:
-- Quadrant 1 (Q1) = Urgent & Important and Quadrant 2 (Q2) = Not Urgent & Important --
The problem is when people hang out in Q1, spending their valuable time putting out fires and getting motivated by the urgency of a task. Considering the possibility of dying does not take up much conscious space, I can safely say it is not an item in Q1, nor Q2. If we want to operate without the stress and limitations of urgency, Q2 is where we aspire to be...planning, making thoughtful choices and fostering relationships. Drawing up a will is something to plan for; it involves choices and involves relationships. Procrastination and the unwillingness to accept death get challenged with the recognition that completing a will is an important Q2 task - it is important and should not be urgent. We want to get it done before it becomes too late.
I recommend that clients see an estate attorney. You can get a will for less online, however after listening to an experienced estate attorney speak about all the considerations unique to each family’s situation, I would be concerned that the online program wouldn’t know all the questions to ask to get a thorough plan in place. In addition to the Living Will, you will also want to complete a Power of Attorney, Health Care Directive, Health Care Proxy, and list your funeral and burial preferences. I also recommend preparing a list of important family, friends and professionals who will want to know about each other in the execution of your estate. Besides listing your attorney, health care proxy, executor, guardian, you can also identify your accountant, financial advisor, and realtor. All people who know you and can help family navigate the estate process during such a difficult time.
A client shared a phrase her mother used, “to put things in dying order.” She knew she could rest easy, knowing her affairs were in such order.