WILL you be ready?

This past week I encountered a situation that was both a financial issue and a very painful family issue. A young man, age 34, was in a traffic accident and seriously hurt. His family was told that his condition would not improve and were asked if he had any type of Will or Health Care Directive. Through tears and much sadness, his mother replied that her son did not have much in the way of assets and he could not afford to have that sort of document written up. The hospital then informed them that they had to use all life saving procedures available.

I don’t want this to be a debate about health care cost, about his right to die but more about the few steps that we can all take to help avoid the decisions and issues this family had to face.

I was able to accompany the family to their sons home and as gently as I could, try to help them go through his personal papers to see if there was any document that he had create that would give direction and convey his wishes should this event occur. In two hours, we were able to find out that he did have assets. He had a life insurance policy worth twice his salary, a 401K plan that had over $23,000 in the plan, two life insurance polices from organizations where he had memberships and 35 shares of stock—a gift form his grandparents. This young man had approximately assets of $87,000. His mother could not get over how much he had saved and that he had listened to her about saving money and buying life insurance.

The part that she did not tell him is that you need a few other documents to protect and direct those assets. He needed a Will that would help the court distribute his assets and he needed a Health Care Directive, that would let his caregivers know of his intentions should be in a condition that he could not communicate about his wishes that related to his care and treatment.

As I continued to look in files, I found one red file folder marked “NET WILL” and knew he had done the right thing. Yes, he had downloaded a very basic Will and Testament and had completed the forms.

The family attorney is now reviewing the paper work and the fate of the young man is still in the balance. When ask about the cost of a simple Will, the family attorney advised the family that he would have prepared a simple Will for less than $200. He mentioned that many companies have Pre-paid legal plans that offer simple and basic documents for less than $100. There are forms at office supply stores and yes even on the net.

No legal advice here friends. Just the simple request that you SPEND, yes spend the time and a maybe the price of weekend away to have a Will drawn up and let your family know that you have this document. While you may have debts, you have assets. Please make this your money resolution for November 2009. WILL you?

Cathy Williams is a former writer for MMI.