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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Taking control of your legacy

There I was with my mother-in-law’s recently purchased refrigerator ready to return it to the retailer where it was purchased.  A friend and I had successfully transported it back to the store.  My marching orders were clear: I needed to be prepared to press hard for a return because my mother in-law had already plugged in the refrigerator, an occurrence that ordinarily triggers a restocking fee.  After I presented the receipt, the clerk kindly informed me that a return was no problem but they would have to charge the dreaded 15% restocking fee.  My normal stoic, reserved public demeanor was transformed as I became a crusader for the oppressed everywhere who were being forced to pay restocking fees.  What happened next is somewhat of a blur, but it involved screaming on my part, a phone “conversation” with the manager who was out of the office at his child’s sporting event, and a forceful argument by me that said policy was unenforceable in a court of law.  My friend, who was by my side at the start of the conversation, suddenly began to distance himself from me and to feign interest in the oven-cleaning kits that were on the complete opposite end of the store.  The clerk stood his ground and refused to waive the fee.  I had no choice but to return the refrigerator and pay the restocking fee.  The store had all of the control.  As I was fretting over my inadequacies as son-in-law and attorney, the clerk told me he was unable to get the computer to process the restocking fee and as a result there would be no restocking fee.

When you die without a will, you lose control of something much more significant than a restocking fee; you lose control of your legacy.  Misinformation abounds about what happens when you die without a will, i.e. dying intestate.  Idaho’s intestacy statute details what happens in such a situation.  In law school, flow charts are created and studied to try to learn all of the possibilities.  If you are married, then your spouse will likely get the bulk of your property.  If you are single, then it will likely go to your kids, and if you have no kids then it will likely go to your parents.  If you die without a will, you lose control of what you want to happen.  If you and your spouse both die and have kids under the age of 18, then you lose control over who will look after them.  While your relatives are grieving, they are left in the unfortunate position of trying to agree on what you would have wanted to happen.  Ultimately, a judge who knows nothing about you and your family may end up deciding what he thinks is best for your kids.

The time of year where gym activity increases and self-improvement activities recommence is at hand.  Making a will is a resolution worth committing to.  The best practice is to consult with an attorney who focuses on estate planning.  However, if you are of limited means, allergic to attorneys, or just do not want to be in the same room as one in fear something undesirable might rub off on you, there is another way.  Idaho, like most other states, recognizes holographic wills.  A holographic will is a will made in your own handwriting and signed by you. You can dictate where your stuff goes and who you would like to take care of your kids if both you and your spouse die.  Similar to the computer glitch that ended up doing away with my mother-in-law’s restocking fee, a holographic will is not the best medium to accomplish the sought after result, but it is better than nothing.

Staff at 12:43 PM
Estate Planning
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