Business Law Articles
Written By: Todd Zimmerman, Esq.
Rohrbachers Cron Manahan Trimble & Zimmerman Co., LPA
While generally most of my blog posts address issues in litigation or insurance related topics, I was preparing a will and the related documents the other day and a funny thing occurred to me: I have never made my own will. I used to chalk that up to being single and the fact that under the laws of Ohio my family would get anything I had and I was fine with that. But as I sat there I realized how even that was pretty bad reasoning, because the process of getting a will addresses so much more than who gets your “stuff.” The reasoning fails even more when you consider that a simple will, living will, healthcare power of attorney and general power of attorney (generally getting a “will” gets you all four) costs very little and addresses situations well beyond who gets your property when you are gone. In fact, most of the critical things addressed involve a person while they are still living. So I put together a list of the primary reasons why the cost of a simple will is easily outweighed by the benefits.
- You have minor children: Perhaps the single greatest reason to have an actual will is that you have minor children. If both you and your spouse/child’s other parent, a will allows you to convey your wishes regarding who you would like to become the guardian of those children. While obviously the will does not make the final decision (a court has to approve the selection), generally a court will give great consideration to the person nominated in the will and in turn provide the greatest chance of implementing your wishes.
- You do not die immediately: When people think of getting a will, they often times forget that the process also generally involves getting a living will. The living will is what addresses your desires, should you be unconscious or in a vegetative state and unable to convey your wishes. The living will can address any number of things regarding your healthcare, but the two primary concerns addressed are whether you want to have life sustaining treatment or wish to have that treatment terminated in certain situations, and whether you wish to have food provided to you if you are unable to eat on your own. There are plenty of safeguards built into the language of a living will (more than one doctor has to assess your situation, etc.), but the living will also relieves some of the stress involved with your family and loved ones trying to “guess” at what you would want done.
- The person you trust most is not family: In some situations, the person you want to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make them for yourself is not a spouse or family member. The healthcare power of attorney basically gives that power to a person you designate while still in a sound state of mind. In a state such as Ohio that does not recognize same-sex marriage, it permits a person to transfer that decision-making authority to a significant other. And not to worry, no matter who is nominated, you can still put limitations/restrictions on that person’s decision making authority (for example your living will would trump the healthcare power of attorney).
- You care who gets your “stuff”: As I am sure we have all seen at one time or another, sometimes when a person dies it is like a race to the house for the remaining family to start looting their stuff and taking the keepsakes that each person wants. Years later, people are still upset because Aunt Gertrude took all the silver in the house. Making a will requires at least some type of oversight process (more so than if you died without one) before things are just taken and, more importantly, allows you to make sure that each person gets what you want them to have.
- It relieves unneeded stress on a significant other: I have always joked that the day I die will actually be the most stress free day in a long time. The reality is, however, that those left behind are left with a lot of stressful things to take care of at a time when they are grieving. Leaving a will at least helps minimize some of those stressful things by giving some direction on how you want your affairs addressed. Things such as who should be the administrator can be addressed, thereby preventing fighting between siblings or children and “new” spouses.
While there are certainly hundreds more reasons to get a will and the related documents, the five listed above are important enough not to need more. Furthermore, the time (and expense) involved is generally minimal and the peace of mind priceless.
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