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The cost of dying

The dynamic duo shared an 11-second clip of their commentary on TikTok, amassing over 65,000 likes and hundreds of comments — many of them alluding to post-death family drama.

The caption on the video provides more straight-up Ramsey advice: “If you’re over 18 and breathing (which is probably the case since you’re reading this), you need a will!

“If you die without a will, now your loved ones are grieving, they’re scared, and they’re headed for probate court.”

They should have added: And they’ll be financially out of pocket.

According to a recent report from Empathy, a platform that helps families navigate bereavement, it takes just over a year to resolve all financial matters after a loss — and the bills can escalate quickly.

It starts with the funeral, which can often cause major financial strain. The median cost of a funeral was $7,848 in 2021, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.

Then there’s the lifetime of financial dealings that need to be resolved. Every debt must be settled, every asset passed on legally to new owners and every partnership dissolved.

For the loved ones left behind, the process can be emotionally and mentally exhausting. When you’re grieving, the last thing you want to take on is having to decide what to do with a home and all of its contents. And negotiating with family members can lead to disputes that can cost the family precious time and money.

The inflated cost of dying is about to become a major problem for American families, according to the Empathy team.

“A growing, aging population, inflation, growing wealth disparity and regressive social welfare policies mean that the impacts of loss will be felt more and more in the years to come.”

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Where there’s a will, there’s a way

Of all financial matters relating to death, the most expensive and challenging, according to Empathy, is the probate process, which validates and administers a deceased person’s estate.

The average family spent $4,967 on probate matters in 2022, but that process can get far more complicated — and expensive — when the deceased hasn’t left clear instructions.

While having a will in place won’t protect your loved ones from the emotional distress of your passing, getting basic documents in place can shield them from any extra financial anxiety, stress and uncertainty. And while 64% of Americans reported in the Caring.com study that they believe having a will is important, that doesn't translate into taking action.

For those who wish to spare their families the uncertainty and stress of trying to figure out their wishes after the fact, having a will is a must. While the laws governing these documents vary by state, there are several basic elements that should be included:

  • Personal information: You should include your full legal name (and any other aliases you go by), date of birth, address and the names of your immediate family.
  • Last will and testament language: Also known as testamentary intent, this legal language declares that your document is a valid will that should be carried out.
  • Assets: Your will details who gets what after you die, so you should list any money, personal belongings, real estate and other high-value assets that you want to distribute.
  • Beneficiaries: Your beneficiaries are the people who will receive your assets when you die. They can be your family members, friends, charities, businesses, or even a trust — but you need to be specific about who gets what.
  • Executor: You should pick someone to carry out the terms of your will and manage any unresolved affairs, like paying bills and taxes. If you don’t name an executor, someone will have to apply to handle your estate via probate court, or the court will name an executor.
  • Guardianship: If you have children under the age of 18 or any disabled or elderly dependents, you can appoint them a legal guardian.
  • Signatures: You’ll need to sign your will and most states also require witness signatures.

Remember, you should update your will as your life changes, like say you get married, divorced or become a parent.

You can get help from an estate lawyer, but it comes at a cost. A simple will can cost a few hundred dollars, but the fee can climb beyond $1,000 if your will is complex.

Still, Ramsey’s team would argue the benefits outweigh the potential risks associated with dying without a will.

“If you’re anything like the average American, you spend hundreds a month on entertainment,” the Ramsey Solutions team shared on Tiktok. “So, why not spend a small portion of that (and just once) on a document that’ll give you peace and protect your family’s future instead?”

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About the Author

Bethan Moorcraft

Bethan Moorcraft

Reporter

Bethan Moorcraft is a reporter for Moneywise with experience in news editing and business reporting across international markets.

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