Q: Over the last several months, I have been thinking a lot about the future. If I get sick right now, I really don’t have my legal and financial affairs in order. I finally filled out my Advance Directive which I had avoided for a long time. I also put a relative’s name on my somewhat meager checking and savings account. Last year I did manage to pay off the mortgage on my home. Other than this property I don’t really have any other assets so is it necessary for me to have a will? I am widowed and don’t have any children to be concerned about. If I do need a will is it going to be expensive to hire an attorney?
A: People who do not consider themselves as “wealthy” may erroneously think a will is unnecessary. The very fact you own your home free of debt may be more of an asset than you realize. A will enables you to decide how your estate will be distributed. If you die “intestate”, which means without a will, the court ultimately will decide how to divide your estate. Do you really want someone else, who doesn’t know your intentions, to be making this final decision?
You took the steps to put a relative’s name on your checking and savings account so it appears there is at least one person you have a close connection with. Would this relative be the ideal person to appoint as your executor? If you feel this relative is trustworthy have a conversation to determine if he or she is willing to assume this responsibility.
Having a will helps to minimize family fights about your estate. While you might like to believe your relatives wouldn’t become contentious after your death this isn’t always the case. In a will you can also disinherit any relative you believe to be undeserving for one reason or another.
Take some time to do an inventory of all your possessions. There may be items, regardless of their value, that you would choose to go to a specific person. Has anyone in your family or a close friend ever admired a piece of your jewelry, furniture or china? One individual I know feels strongly about leaving possessions to those who would take care of them and feel honored to have them after her death.
A will can always be changed while you are still living if circumstances change. It is very important to understand the laws that apply in the state where you reside. The fact that you own your residence indicates your estate may be worth enough to have an attorney draw up your will. Most attorneys who specialize in this area may be able to give you a “ball park” figure of the costs involved. You might ask friends, relatives or neighbors if they have had a positive experience in working with an attorney. You can also go on-line to find referrals in the town where you reside.
Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our experienced staff are available to offer assistance. Call 1-800-892-0890 (for the 23 cities and towns of the Merrimack Valley) or 978-750-4540 (for the 5 towns in the North Shore).
Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Direct correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and North Shore.