Larry and Susan had been living together for more than 20 years. They never legally married; they said once had been enough. A piece of paper wouldn’t change how they felt about each other. Larry had been married before and had two sons. Susan had also been married previously and she had a daughter.
When Larry’s father became incapacitated, they moved into his house to take care of him. His father, to thank them for all they’d done, left the house to Larry in his will and named Larry beneficiary of his life insurance policy. When his father died, Larry inherited the house and Susan and Larry continued to live in the house. Larry promised to deposit the check from the insurance company into their joint bank account as soon as it arrived.
As Larry was crossing the street on his way home from work one day, he was struck by a car driven by a drunk driver and he died almost instantly.
Larry didn’t have a will and had not left any legal document naming Susan as his heir. They lived in a state that did not recognize common law marriage so, when he died, his sons inherited everything. They forced Susan to move out of the house and refused to give her any of the proceeds from the life insurance policy. In essence, Susan was left with almost nothing!
Families today are very complex. Some are the traditional married mother and father in their first marriage. Many more are couples who were previously married to other spouses or who are legally married gay couples. However, many people live together without benefit of a legal ceremony. This mixture of circumstances makes inheritance much more difficult and complex.
The only way to be sure your loved ones are protected is to prepare a will or a trust naming the person(s) you want to inherit your assets when you die. Otherwise, state law will dictate who receives what. Not you. It’s frightening that more than half of the people living in the United States today do not have a will and have not protected their loved ones. You can find a simple will form on the internet or can meet with an estate planning attorney to discuss the options that are best for you.
Don’t be like Larry. Act now so those you love will be protected when you’re gone. For more information about wills and estate planning, go to www.diesmart.com.