Many people assume they don’t need a will. Maybe it’s because they don’t have huge bank accounts, stocks or valuables. Or maybe because they don’t plan on dying anytime soon. Perhaps it seems like “estate planning” is only for the rich and famous. Whatever the reason, over 55 percent of Americans don’t have a will in place, and that’s a problem.
Every person needs a will. Whether you’re rich or poor, young or old, married or single, have kids or don’t – you need a will and an estate plan. Why?
“Even if you don’t have much, you still need a will. It can be a very simple one, but it’s much better to determine where your assets go yourself rather than leave it up to the state. Whatever little you have, you earned it. You might as well be the one who figures out what they want to do,” says says Melissa Stone Myers, an estate planning expert and Texas Legal attorney.
If you die without a will, the state decides what will happen to your assets and your children. Not only do you lose your say in your estate planning, but the process becomes more difficult and much more expensive for your family.
“If you have a will in Texas, it’s a less expensive process. If you don’t have a will, your family is going to spend a lot more time and money figuring it out,” says Myers.
If the words “estate planning” sound complicated to you, here’s a short rundown of the documents you’ll need and what they do:
1. Will or a Trust.
These documents say where your assets go when you die – your house, your car, money, stocks or bonds, etc. It also states who gets guardianship of any minor children.
2. Power of Attorney.
This document states who may act on your behalf for financial and legal affairs if you die or become incapacitated and can’t make decisions for yourself.
3. Medical Power of Attorney.
These documents state who has the power to make medical decisions for you in case you are unable to make decisions for yourself. It should include a privacy consent form that allows that person to access your medical records so they can make informed decisions.
4. Living Will or Medical Directive.
A living will allows you to make decisions about what care you receive if you are diagnosed with a terminal or irreversible condition and can’t advocate for yourself. It allows you to determine what what life saving measures or treatments you do or do not want.
But I Can’t Afford a Will!
Another reason people avoid estate planning? Cost. The average lawyer charges $1,500 for a basic estate planning package, which isn’t the kind of money most folks have lying around. But Texans have a great advantage – Texas Legal. As a non-profit created by the state of Texas, we exist to help everyday folks get their legal needs met without paying hundreds or thousands of dollars. Everyone needs a will, and through Texas Legal, everyone can afford one.
Our legal plans start at $10 a month, and every plan we offer covers estate planning in full. That means you could pay as little as $120 for your will, trust, powers of attorney and living will. Plus, the plan covers a long list of other legal benefits, and includes access to identity theft protection and financial education counselors.
Everyone needs a will, and it doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. Find out more about Texas Legal today, and if you’re already a member, make sure you’ve taken advantage of your estate planning benefits to write a will or keep yours updated.