Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Who Needs a Will?

I have been on a quiet mission for a few years to encourage people to execute wills. Often, I have had people ask me, not unreasonably, why they might need a will.
I found a very elegant and succinct answer by Nashville attorney Barbara Moss in a recent article in The Tennessean. In answering the question “So, who needs a will?” Moss writes:
Anyone who owns property with no co-owner or beneficiary or who has children young enough to need a guardian needs a will. Someone who has a complicated family situation, such as children by a former spouse, or a taxable estate (in Tennessee, any estate over $1 million dollars), especially needs a will.
Moss goes on to write, as I did last year, about Steve McNair and how he could have saved his family thousands of dollars in estate taxes had he done some basic estate planning.
Also, since a large part of my practice caters to songwriters and recording artists, it is important to stress the need to divide the royalty income and/or copyright income the way you want it divided rather than either by the laws of your state (i.e. intestate succession) or by a well meaning but perhaps uninformed spouse. As Gary Roth, from BMI recently wrote:
Your state legislature determined what you’d likely want to do with your personal property and wrote the law that way, but you may have wanted to do it differently. That’s what you can accomplish with a will – but only if you create one.
From a personal standpoint, I know that people don’t like to contemplate their mortality, and a will makes you do that. On the other hand, the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you have done everything in your power to look

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