Whenever a celebrity dies, there’s always a ripple effect. The death of Casey Kasem prompted increased interest in issues of health care directives, guardianship and end of life planning. The death of Michael Jackson shed new light on the abuse of prescription drugs. Now, barely six weeks after the death of the rock star Prince, who died without a will, people are showing a surge of interest in wills and estate planning.
This is according to a recent article on the Reuters news service website. Click here to connect to this fascinating piece.
Prince died on April 21, leaving behind an estate valued at more than $300 million. Apparently the international celebrity never got around to drafting a will or establishing an estate plan. Prince was not a particularly young man (he was 57 at time of death) but like many adults he may have had a distorted sense of his own immortality. He was hardly alone: research reported in the Reuters article states that up to one in three U.S. adults 55 and older do not have any sort of will – and for adults younger than 55 the figure is barely one in five.
Reuters reports that, since the death of Prince, “many Americans have moved ‘draft a will’ – arguably one of life’s most unpleasant tasks – to the top of their to-do lists.” In some ways, that’s good news. However, as professional retirement planners, we here at Aging Options fear that some of these newly-inspired people may be going about the process the wrong way, relying on free or low-cost will-writing software and websites that provide only bare-bones services, hardly adequate for most estate plans.
For example, after Prince died and his lack of a will became known, the legal information site Nolo.com saw more than a 40 percent spike in requests for its online will-drafting product, Nolo Online Will. The website LegalZoom experienced a similar bump in inquiries including a 20 percent increase in requests for attorney consultations. A third website called RocketLawyer reported a 57 percent increase in estate planning activity.
Adds Reuters with a touch of irony, “Prince’s relatives, meanwhile, face the expensive and time-consuming process of a state-ordered probate” – something that could clearly and relatively easily have been avoided.
We’re all in favor of intelligent legal planning and we bemoan the fact that so many otherwise intelligent adults avoid this important process. But the aspect of the Reuters article that concerns us as professional estate planners and experts in retirement is that many people seeking out the least expensive “quickie wills” available online may be doing themselves a disservice. Just as those free retirement calculators available online may give you bad advice (click here to link to a recent article on our Blog about this problem), cookie-cutter “will kits” may leave you with a false sense of security. And picking an attorney at random from a website seems a bad method for making a decision that’s so important!
We also strongly suggest that merely writing a will is not enough. The process of putting your legal affairs in order is only one aspect of a fully-developed retirement plan, which we call a LifePlan. A LifePlan takes many facets of your future planning into account: legal affairs, financial security, medical care, housing choices and family communication. This is the kind of comprehensive plan that brings true security as you age. It’s also the kind of well-developed plan that you can never get from an online will kit!
Want to find out more? Here’s the best way: attend one of our free LifePlanning Seminars, held throughout the area. There’s absolutely no obligation – and we’re fully confident that you’ll come away armed with a fresh new approach to retirement. These free information-packed sessions fill up quickly, so visit the Upcoming Events tab on this website, select the seminar of your choice, and register online.
Making a will is important. But having a LifePlan in place will be of far greater benefit. If only Prince had known that, his family could have been spared even more grief and dissension.
(originally reported at www.reuters.com)