Death is a sexist matter. Preparing for it seems to be, at least. And that may partially explain why so many North Americans do not have an up-to-date will.
Surveys show that men are less comfortable than women when discussing their own eventual death. Most think they're either too young or too fit to talk about it.
Married women are more practical. They tend to live longer than men, and most are younger than their husbands. These two facts together can spell many years of self-reliance for women after years of shared responsibility. In general, married women plan to be on their own; their husbands do not.
(Since married couples form the majority of North Americans of marriageable age, their survey input overwhelms the input of others.)
The male-female attitude clash pits wives, who have a vital interest in their husband's will, against husbands who see no reason to rush. But it is not the only reason so many are without an up-to-date will.
For most people, visiting a lawyer is an unusual event that involves stress and cost. The requirements of a will often change as circumstances change: as children become adults; because of broken marriages (an affliction of some 50 percent of North Americans), as assets change and grow. The younger we are when we prepare a will, the greater the likelihood it will need change later, resulting in fresh legal fees. And to many this is reason enough to delay this acknowledgement of our mortality.
Appealing to a husband's sense of fair play, love and understanding may help. Honey is more likely to work than vinegar. As to the inconvenience and cost of repeated minor changes, there may be a simple solution.
Unless there's a change of marriage partners, most major elements of a will remain constant: "He/she gets the house and all my worldly wealth. So-and-so is appointed guardian for the kids, and my wife/husband is appointed executor because he/she is going to get it all, anyway." Along those lines, at least.
The simple way to deal with small issues, some of which can change quite frequently, is to have a separate informal document (it could be notes in a cheap exercise book or in a computer file) that spells out your wishes in clear terms. This document and its location should be listed in your will. As examples, it might list your knickknacks and who is to get them, who gets the cat and what special care she needs, and a list of things you have borrowed and from whom. Most change is likely to occur in this document, leaving the basic will untouched. Together they provide your executor with a clear view of your wishes - and you don't need a lawyer each time there's a change.
Most adults understand they should have a will, but most of us don't expect to die tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes, the saying goes. But with each new day tomorrow becomes today - and we have no way of knowing which today will be our last. Maybe that's why seven out of 10 North Americans die without a will, and eight out of 10 wills are not up to date. That means that just six of every 100 of us has a will that was reviewed in the past two years.
Which statistic are you?
This is just one of dozens of helpful ideas presented in The Estate Manual and its electronic counterpart, THEMES. The manual organizes the human side of estate planning. This area is often overlooked, but it makes a huge (and obvious) difference to survivors. It is an easy-to-use system for making sure nothing is left out of your planning. Learn more at:
Estate Manual. Com