What You Need to Know About Wills and Living Wills

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What You Need to Know About Wills and Living Wills

When Tom Johnson of Washington D.C. was called in 2016 about his brother-in-law, Mark, Tom became intimately aware of the need for a living will.

Mark, unconscious and lying in a New York hospital was unmarried and didn’t have a living will outlining either his wishes or giving power of attorney to a relative.

“We were on the sidelines,” Tom said in a phone interview. “It was hard to even find out his condition and prognosis.”

Mark lived but now lives in a rehab program. The motorcycle accident which put Mark’s life on the line opened his eyes and those of his family. Mark, 63, had a will ready, but he didn’t have a living will.

Younger Persons Writing Wills and Living Wills Than Ever Before

An increasing number of younger people have started writing wills recently and most incorporate living wills in their estate.

“People are handling it in their 30s and 40s,” said Chris Johnson, an estate attorney in California. “I used to just see it from people in their 60s.”

The trend is more prevalent in hi-tech areas such as Silicon Valley where young entrepreneurs may have banked millions before they turned 30. The main cities, such as New York, where terrorism is seen as a serious threat, also is experiencing an uptick.

September 11 hit home for a lot of people. That day didn’t discriminate against 19-year-olds or 91-year olds.

The losses of entertainment figures like George Michael and Prince caught the attention of the generation which grew up with their music.

Nevertheless, 65% of the 18-and-older crowd, in America, did not have a will — of any kind — in 2016.

People are typically motivated to write wills when a life event such as marriage, a child’s birth, a divorce or a family member’s death occurs. Many don’t know that if an estate plan is not in place, or the terms are not specific and updated regularly, there can be chaos after death or even after a severe accident.

When someone dies without a will — intestate — the state makes the decisions.

Avoid the Traps

The task of writing a will can be full of traps. Here are some points:

  1. Discuss the idea with a local attorney who is well-versed in your state’s probate laws.
  1. Don’t transfer bank accounts to children before death. With persons living longer, attorneys warn that such a move could leave will writers destitute.
  1. Never put a residence in a child’s name while you are living. If the child goes bankrupt, creditors can take the house.
  1. Keep wills updated and crosscheck the beneficiaries’ names. Be sure to do the same with 401(k) accounts as many persons wrongly believe a will is the final word.