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Why a will is important

According to Orman, it’s a huge mistake to not have a will, and she's right. Without it, the distribution of your property to legal heirs will be handled by the probate court in what can be a lengthy process, and you could put your family in a tough financial spot after you die.

It cost families an average of $4,384 and $4,967 to deal with a loved one’s financial and legal matters, respectively, after they died, according to the 2023 Cost of Dying report from bereavement platform Empathy.

Yet two-thirds (68%) of Americans don't have a will, according to a survey by Caring.com.

Many respondents said it's because they "don’t have enough assets to leave anyone." However, wills do more than handle financial assets, according to Patrick Hicks, General Counsel of Trust & Will. "... they allow you to control important healthcare decisions, designate what happens with your digital and social media assets, and provide specific guidance on how and by whom minor children should be looked after in the event of an emergency," he said.

And wills aren’t expensive or time-consuming to make. You can even write yours online, without a lawyer.

However, if you’re like Orman and have many assets and intellectual property, then you should speak to a legal or estate professional.

Read more: Thanks to Jeff Bezos, you can now cash in on prime real estate — without the headache of being a landlord. Here's how

A revocable living trust matters, too

Orman pointed out that actuarially speaking, Solomon’s husband will die before her and this could lead to serious problems for her.

In the U.S., men’s life expectancy is 73.5-years-old, whereas women’s is 79.3-years-old, according to the most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Orman perfectly explained the importance of a revocable living trust while admonishing Solomon.

She said, “Your husband, let’s say, has just died. You now are by yourself. You have a stroke. You’re totally incapacitated. It’s reality. It happens. Who is going to be able to write your bills for you and take care of the money you have?”

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a revocable living trust is “a legal document that gives someone the authority to make decisions about someone else’s money or property that’s held in a trust.”

Revocable living trusts can not only be hugely helpful when you’re sick or incapacitated, but also helpful for your family after you die. The trust’s beneficiaries receive the assets inside it after your death — just like a will. Because all the assets are pre-sorted, it can help your family avoid probate.

A revocable trust allows the trust owner — you — to change things in it, as you see fit. So if you get a divorce or cut one of your kids off, you can change the beneficiaries of the trust. This is true for the assets in the trust, as well.

This is in contrast to an irrevocable trust, which is very difficult to change and requires the permission of the beneficiaries to do so, according to The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.

So Orman is right that you need to take care of yourself and your family before anything bad happens. If not, you can expect a stern talking-to from her.

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About the Author

Sabina Wex

Sabina Wex

Reporter

Sabina Wex is a writer and podcast producer in Toronto. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Fast Company, CBC and more.

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