I Don't Really Have Anything, Why Do I Really Need A Will?
February 1, 2021 | View PDF
I get that question all too often. Even poor people have more than they probably think. Do you have a home (even a mobile home)? Do you have a car or truck? Do you have any money in a bank? While there are some ways around transferring a home, vehicle or bank account to a loved one or loved ones after death there are exceptions and even then it probably needed to be planned before your death and placed in the proper format. A proper Will takes care of those items in one document. It’s true that you probably still have to probate that Will after death to have a proper transfer, but a properly done Will can at least provide a solution for your “stuff” after death.
Without a Will (intestate), costs are greater for the probate process than if there is a Will. When no Will exists an heir has to step forward to be the personal representative. With no heir to step forward it becomes a little more complicated in that either the largest creditor or County Conservator may have to step forward. The availability of a County Conservator is based on County population. The Personal Representative has to be bonded based on value of the estate and an inventory of the estate with appropriate values must be filed within sixty (60) days after a Personal Representative is appointed by the Probate Judge. Short of unusual circumstances a Will does not require the Personal Representative to be bonded or an inventory to be done. The only intestate exception to bonding is for the Summary Distribution of a small estate, which is an estate under $25,000. of probate assets. Remember that probate assets do not include beneficiary distributions (i.e. life insurance) or Payable on Death (POD) from a bank account, Transfer on Death (TOD) from investments or items titled to a Trust. Also not included is real property that divests to one with right of survivorship or with a remainder interest under a life estate deed. Probate assets do not include bank accounts with right of survivorship to another person or persons also on the account. HOWEVER, those bank accounts because their funding was by the deceased, must first be available for debts. If a co-owner takes the money and runs and there are debts then the estate must ask for it back, up to the fair share to pay debts or the estate may need to sue the one that has taken the money and not made it available for debts.
I think as you read this and reflect on your assets, you realize you have more to consider than you realized. It is well worth a trip to see a lawyer and to get your estate plan in order.
As I have gotten older, I have thought more about not just a Will, but how your estate plan reflects your legacy. Will your heirs look at what you left and remark about your irresponsibility? When they look at your financial account will they wonder what you did with the money that you had? Will they say, Mom and/ or Dad never had much but look what they did with it and no wonder they were comfortable in retirement. Without even considering one’s stuff what will be said about your character.
In addition to your Will you can also leave a personal directive of sort speaking to your beliefs and values and directing your heirs as well as possible which characteristics they should live their lives by. One of the greatest fathers in the Bible was a man named Jonadab, son of Rekhab and found in 2nd Kings as well as Jeremiah. Jonadab had a zeal and love for God. Though murderous by today’s standards he was involved in tricking the worshippers of Baal to come together in their temple only to be locked in and all killed. But that was his zeal for God and how to treat anyone that was an enemy of God. But what Jonadab did in life was remarkable and his heirs for generations were honored by God. Jonadab’s directives to his children and children’s children was that they should not drink alcohol and never build a house nor plant a vineyard. About 250 years later (still living in tents) in Jeremiah 35:15-18 we read this concerning the descendants of Jonadab son of Rekhab (called the Rekabites),
15 Again and again I sent all my servants the prophets to you. They said, “Each of you must turn from your wicked ways and reform your actions; do not follow other gods to serve them. Then you will live in the land I have given to you and your ancestors.” But you have not paid attention or listened to me. 16 The descendants of Jehonadab son of Rekab have carried out the command their forefather gave them, but these people have not obeyed me.’
17 “Therefore this is what the LORD God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Listen! I am going to bring on Judah and on everyone living in Jerusalem every disaster I pronounced against them. I spoke to them, but they did not listen; I called to them, but they did not answer.’”
18 Then Jeremiah said to the family of the Rekabites, “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘You have obeyed the command of your forefather Jehonadab and have followed all his instructions and have done everything he ordered.’ 19 Therefore this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Jehonadab son of Rekab will never fail to have a descendant to serve me.’”
Jonadab’s commandments to his descendants were not Biblical commandments, but it was his love and zeal for God that allowed the Recabites to escape disaster. What will your legacy be?