Having worked for two bank trust departments and observed so many complex problems created by the lack of a will, I have always urged clients, friends, and family members to keep their estate planning documents up to date. Those documents include a will, durable power of attorney, medical power of attorney, and several other documents in many situations.
Famous people who have access to high paid lawyers don’t get it right and it makes headlines. For example, Prince and Michael Jackson fit that list, although a later will surfaced for MJ. Sony Bono and even Abraham Lincoln died without wills. It’s a long list ?, just Google it if you have time.
Guess where contested estates (including those who die without wills) end up? In court, of course. Guess who wins there? The lawyers, always. They get paid first, as you might imagine.
So why is it so important to have a will when you think your “estate” is small? You don’t own property and your only big account is your 401k and that has a beneficiary? Single people ask that a lot. So do recently married couples.
Here’s my answer. Do you want all your possessions to go to your parents if that’s where the probate judge decides they go? OK, who gets your diary? Especially if your parents are divorced and you’re not in contact with one of them. Do you want one or both of your parents to see your apartment contents or do you want some things to be trashed by your executor who is a friend or relative that is not one of your parents?
Then there’s your digital life. How do you want that handled or deleted? Your executor will do that on your behalf per your wishes IF you have them in writing (a will or letter of instruction to your executor).
So, if you love someone(s) and you want your legacy, in the event of your untimely death, to be one of happiness and a fulfilled life, then get a will and your other estate planning documents done NOW. It’s an act of love, in my opinion.