Leave A Message, Not A Mess!
By Michael Aun, FIC, LUTCF, CSP, CPAE
President, Central Florida NAIFA
I’ve been in the insurance and estate planning business for over four decades and it never ceases to amaze me how poorly prepared people are. It’s not that they don’t love their spouses, children, grandchildren or others… of that I am sure.
Then the only two excuses are ignorance or negligence. When I complete a fact-finder on my clients, I always ask if they have a Will or Trust, Health Care Directives a Durable Power of Attorney and a Living Will.
When you die “intestate” you basically allow the state or province in which you reside to make those decisions for you. And more often than not, the way those entities disperse your assets is not the way you had intended.
Complete strangers in the form of Probate Judges will make those decisions for you. These same strangers will decide who raises your children. The law of intestacy grants them that power. They’re just doing their job because you failed to do yours. The way the state figures you decided not to write a will so they wrote one for you.
Hardly anything could be worse than dying without a will except having an out-of-date will. I reside in Florida, better known as God’s waiting room. People move here to die because Florida has no state income tax and no estate taxes.
A client of mine had failed to domicile his Will in Florida. The instrument itself was correctly drawn but it said he was a resident of a state up north where it was drawn. That state happens to have pretty severe estate taxes, better known as death taxes.
This man had lived here for 42 years. He voted here. His auto tags say Florida. His driver’s license said he was a Florida resident. He owns a home and pays property taxes here. He has filed income tax returns as a Florida resident for 42 years. Everything about him screams he’s a Floridian, except his Will.
His “last will and testament” indicated he was of sound mind and body and that he resides in the state where it was drawn some 42 years ago. The spouse would have been better off not finding the will at all as she now owes taxes in that state. Ironically, she herself has never even been to the state.
How did the state even know he was dead? It helped that that state actually has tax offices here in Florida and their sole role is to attend probate hearings to see who owes them money.
I call it the six P’s… Proper Planning Prevents Pitifully Poor Performance. The irony of all of this is the only thing I am 100% sure of is they ARE going to die, it’s just a matter of when.
Many times a client says to me “Well if I die…” My answer is blunt. What do you mean if? It’s a matter of when you die. I always joke “On the way over here today, I spoke to God and He told me you aren’t getting out of here alive!” Why ignore the inevitable? Two reasons- ignorance or negligence.
I usually try to bring the inevitable into focus with some humor. “If you become part of a grill on a Mack truck…” or “If you turn into a pig pizza spot on I-95…” or “If you end up on the wrong side of the dirt in a marble orchard…” Humor seems to help people focus on the bad news a little easier.
Ironically a majority of people I counsel with daily have already experienced a death in the family that had to be settled under the laws of intestacy.
It is easier to put off doing a Will and final planning not because of procrastination or a lack of urgency. Rather it’s because they just don’t want to admit to themselves that their tenure here on earth is but a speck on the backdrop of time… and it will end!
If you love your family, don’t acquiesce this to the jurisdiction in which you reside. The very people you love more than life itself will endure a little piece of hell on earth cleaning up your mess. Leave a message, not a mess! That’s the kindest love note you’ll ever write to your loved ones.
Michael Aun, FIC, LUTCF, CSP, CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame is a syndicated columnist. His column, “Behind the Mike” appears in 1500 weekly periodicals is 41 countries. Past columns can be found at http://www.aunline.com/blog.