Wills Are Not Only for the Rich

Last week, I picked up the phone only to hear my mother utter the words that I have come to dread over the past year: “Kris, they sent those papers back again!”

For several months now, the motor vehicle department for a state which shall remain nameless (not New York) has rejected our every attempt to transfer title to my deceased father’s car to my mother.  What is the problem?  We followed the department’s instructions to the letter and gave them all the requested documents.  And what do we always get in return?  A major headache.

Who would have guessed that simply transferring title to a 27 year old car would cause so much frustration?  At this point, my family actually fantasizes that someone just steals it.  Of course, with our luck, the car would probably break down before it even clears the driveway.

Beyond my family’s fantasy, one thought keeps running through my mind: this car would have never been an issue in the first place if my father had just taken the time to have his will prepared.

Several people (including me) gently advised my parents over the years to have a will in place or develop some other type of estate plan.  However, my parents felt such advice was ridiculous since they were not rich.  After all, they just had their house, car and savings.  Why bother?

Well, my family’s situation is a perfect illustration of why everybody should prepare a will regardless of how much money they have.  If my father had taken this simple step, the process of transferring the car’s title to my mother would have been so much smoother.  A will would have expressed my father’s wishes.  We then could have filed in probate court and settled his estate much faster than the nearly 18 months that have already passed.

Please let my family’s story serve as a cautionary tale.  No one enjoys contemplating their own death.  However, we should look beyond our own needs and think about the many difficulties that our families could face if we do not plan for the future.