When it comes to wealth planning, most clients with a large distribution of assets are likely to have tools in place. But the AARP reports that there are still six in 10 Americans that don't have a will, and those are potential clients for you.
Even wealthy clients are often not thinking about dying without a will, such as pop artist Prince who died without a will reports Forbes Magazine. Additionally, the AARP notes that the younger generations are still not asking the "who needs a will" question at all.
In a survey by Caring.com, the AARP says that 81 percent of those older than 72 have a will, and 58 percent of baby boomers or those over the age of 53, have a will. But that means that 47 percent of baby boomers don't have one. There are potential clients in that pool for you too.
For your clients that are among the six in 10 Americans that don't have a will, there are efficient ways to create a will through estate planning tools.
What Happens if My Clients Die Without a Will?
For those Americans that are dying without a will, CNBC reports that intestacy laws will come into place. That means the laws of your state will determine who gets what, and in all likelihood, the estate goes to the closest living relative.
In New York, for example, half of the assets will go to the spouse, while the children get the rest of the estate.
When there are assets in places such as retirement accounts, life insurance, social media accounts, stock portfolios, and digital assets, or business contracts, the process gets complicated and lengthy.
Prince died with a $200 million dollar estate in April 2016, and it took a year and some before a Minnesota judge ruled before a Minnesota judge ruled his five half-siblings as his heirs in May 2017 according to Rolling Stone Magazine.
But in a separate report, Forbes noted that even a few days before the second anniversary of his death the Prince estate will still not settled.
In a nutshell, when your client asks "Why do I need a will" you can refer them to the case of Prince. The answer is, everybody does, or your heirs inherit a lengthy and expensive legal battle.
Who Needs a Will?
When your clients ask who needs a will, your answer is everybody. A will is not complicated when you have estate planning tools at your disposal. But when a client is thinking about wealth planning, it feels complicated to them.
Everybody needs a will and those with more assets or complicated business dealings are best to engage wealth planning with easy will planning. The last thing your client wants is to be managing a huge multi-million dollar deal and have that hanging by a thread if they die prematurely.
At the same time, wealthy families have assets they may not have even considered need to be put in a will. Forbes discusses the story of a pair of two sisters who fought over a family spoon when their relative passed.
One sister got the spoon, one sister didn't. Fifteen years later and the sisters still haven't spoken.
And then there is the matter of pets. Any client with pets needs a will.
Yes, they can will whatever you want to their pets, and many wealthy people do. But a will ensures your client's wishes about their forever companion will be honored.
When Should Your Client Update Their Will?
Your client may not be wondering "who needs a will," but they may have handled their wealth planning several years ago, or even decades ago.
There are certain events that happen in life that will allow you to send reminders to your clients that their estate planning needs to be updated. Contemporary matters such as digital assets may be a good thing to remind your client of when it comes to will updating as well.
Estate planning software has been updated, and so should your client's estate planning.
When a client obtains social media accounts or digital assets, they want to update their will. Your clients also want to update their wills when they experience major life events such as the following:
- New real estate in the assets
- Birth of new children or grandchildren
- A move to a new state
- Large purchases, such as a yacht or new vehicle
- Property sales
- Changes in tax laws
- Digital assets change
You don't want your client dying without a will or dying without an update to an existing will. Estate planning software tools will make their wealth planning easier.
A Note on Digital Assets
In the twenty-first century, assets are changing with the technological revolution.
The last thing anybody wants is to pass prematurely, and have their heirs in legal disputes over who gets the laptop, who gets to manage the social media accounts, or who gets important documents or files.
Additionally, Prince died with music assets and this has also led to significant legal disputes for his heirs.
Digital assets include anything from hard drives, computers, online accounts, emails, domains for websites, rewards programs such as Air Miles, and even blogs. If your client has any of these things, they likely already know who they want to manage that if they pass.
But they may not have considered that when it comes to estate planning. As estate planning tools update, so too must your client's wills.
Facebook already has a function in place to ensure this for their clients. It's called the legacy feature, and this allows anybody with a Facebook account to determine who gets control of that social media account.
Many wealthy clients today likely have social media accounts such as Twitter or Facebook for their business. Instagram is also a rising trend for business. Bitcoin is also becoming a popular tool for wealthy business operators.
These represent online identities and functions that have a cash or intrinsic value that can be in dispute if someone dies prematurely.
In many cases, the executor of the estate would take control if this is not pre-determined. But your clients may not want the executor in control of that.
Updated estate planning tools can assist with the updated needs of today's client who is preparing a will.
When to Get an Estate Planning Attorney
When your clients are asking "who needs a will" your answer is always, "Everybody." Many clients are already engaged in wealth planning and may not think they need a will. They may also have accrued assets that they don't believe need to go into a will, like an Instagram or Bitcoin account.
But the case of Prince proves that with times changing, so too must their wills change. Everybody needs a will, and everybody needs an updated will.
Make sure you have the 5 things clients seek in an estate planning attorney. You want to ensure you have the most updated estate planning software as well.