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You need a will
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WASHINGTON--My brother Ross recently died of complications from lung cancer. He was 40.
Ross left a wonderful personal legacy. He was a good father, friend and coach. He was a dedicated educator who devoted his career to working with children with emotional, developmental and physical disabilities.
But like many Americans, my brother failed to take care of his financial affairs even after receiving the diagnosis that his cancer had progressed and he might not have long to live. He just wouldn't or couldn't follow through on advice to prepare a will. Tragically, he was a single parent who left no written instructions regarding guardianship for his 3-year-old son.
As shrewd as she was, even my grandmother, Big Mama, who raised me and was a great money manager, refused to prepare a will. She kept saying she didn't need one, that everyone knew her wishes. Well, most didn't and some who did ignored what Big Mama wanted. Upheaval followed her death, leaving broken relationships that have still not been mended after 17 years.
Death is hard enough to deal with, but toss in a family with unresolved issues along with no instructions from the deceased and you have discord at the very time you most need order.
I'm so weary from going to funerals--and I've been to way too many--where the deceased didn't take the steps needed to either eliminate or at least mitigate fights over his or her assets or to appoint a guardian for the children. I've witnessed the horrible fights that erupt when people die without updating their beneficiary information or even naming a beneficiary. Deserving survivors become wounded when they learn their loved one didn't have a will and, as a result, assets are distributed to spendthrift relatives.
Please, I'm begging you to get your financial affairs in order, especially if you have children or you are responsible for taking care of someone. Tomorrow isn't promised to any of us. I've heard many of the excuses, so allow me to address some of them: