Imagine if the state of Maryland planned your funeral. Your loved ones could gather in a state-run funeral chapel under the hum of florescent lights. Amid plastic chrysanthemums and piped-in organ music, you would be eulogized by a state employee who had never met you. With little to go on, he could speak favorably of your diligence in paying your taxes and avoiding incarceration. Then your remains would be conveyed to a public cemetery and interred beneath a marker bearing the identifier by which the state knows you best—your Social Security number.
How does that sound? Like a Las Vegas wedding, this scenario may have a certain kitsch appeal, but most of us would prefer something a bit more personal. Fortunately, the state won’t plan your funeral, even if you fail to do so. But if you die without a Will, it will plan your estate, and the results can be just as regrettable.
Revocable living trusts have been marketed so successfully that many people think they can’t live—or die—without one. The promises of avoiding probate, ensuring privacy, and preparing for incapacity seem too enticing to pass up. Suze Orman, the popular financial guru, goes so far as to say that “everyone” needs a revocable living trust. But what everyone really needs is some good advice. Living trusts can be useful in limited circumstances, but most of us are simply better off without one. A revocable living trust is essentially a substitute for a Will. Rather than having your estate administered through probate, you would retitle your assets in the name of a trust created for this purpose. Because the trust is revocable, you can amend or revoke it as necessary during your lifetime. Upon your death, the trust becomes irrevocable and your trustee simply distributes the assets to your beneficiaries. Time is saved, costs are minimized, and probate is avoided. What’s not to like?
George Burns once said, “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” He may have been on to something. Families can bring us joy, but they can also bring us heartache. For most people, of course, family woes are mere annoyances-the parent who complains we never call, the crazy uncle who…
Ann Aldrich was a frugal lady. When it came time to write her Will, the Florida resident decided to use “E-Z Legal Forms” and leave everything to her sister, Mary. By preparing the Will herself, Ann thought, she would save the cost of using a lawyer and achieve the same result. What could possibly go wrong?
If you’re like most Americans, you’ve been putting off having a Last Will & Testament prepared for too long. Most of us have strong feelings about who should inherit our money, real estate, personal possessions, and other assets—and who shouldn’t. But the sad truth is that we usually fail to put our wishes in writing. By preparing a Will, you can leave the people you care about with clear instructions as to your final wishes and save them time, money, and a lot of stress.
Anyone who has lost a pet knows a special sorrow. What happens, however, when it is the pet that loses its owner? That lingering question, and its potentially tragic ramifications, are leading more and more pet owners to plan for the care of their pets after their own death. A good first step is to…