Everyone needs a will.

Everyone needs a will.

My ex-husband died a week and a half ago, and I'm in the process of helping his mother tie up all the loose ends. He didn't have a will.

He didn't have much in the way of assets, either, but we wanted to use what there was to help defray her costs for his cremation and her travel down here to Florida. She's been hit with a couple of thousand in travel and cremation expenses, not to mention car trouble back home.

Resolving this is turning out to be a surprisingly tangled mess.

It's looking like Florida's probate fee may cost a not insubstantial amount (nearly $200). We have no idea whether there are even enough assets to recover to be worth starting probate.

Because he had no will, Florida state law decides where his money goes. We may not be able to apply the funds to softening the cost for her, even though we think that that is what he would have wanted.

Plus, even with what is known as summary administration, it's going to take several weeks for everything to be settled. I'm really wishing that she did not have to deal with this on top of everything else.

I'm not looking for advice, but rather, sharing a few details to emphasize the importance of having your affairs in order, no matter how small your assets or how young you are.

Nobody thinks they are going to die at 35, but, sometimes it happens. And, there are very simple, usually inexpensive, ways to make sure that you can soften the blow financially for your family, and also help them avoid dealing with red tape at an already traumatic time. For instance, in Florida, if you do not own real estate and your other assets are small, you can completely avoid probate by:

-assuring that all your bank accounts and investment accounts are Payable on Death or Transferable on Death to the party of your choice
-making sure you have a witnessed and notarized will

I'm not going to give any specific recommendations beyond researching the laws of your own state and how they pertain to your family and financial situations. Nolo.com has a state by state breakdown of laws, and is a good place to start.

Carrying the trend forward…

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