Death insurance, or happy sibling trust?

Don’t let your family, assets and business get caught up in a legal mess. Take care of it today; please, write a will.

By
September 10, 2012 21:50
4 minute read.
Money

Money 370. (photo credit: Thinkstock)

 
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If you’re thinking that business and family life are essentially separate, this may surprise you. They’re not. I want to broach a subject that is not about business, but it could severely impact all you have worked, or are working, to build.

Please, write a will.

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I’m 32 years old, and I have a will. Not because I have a large estate, or anything complicated – but just because I have advised enough people to know how traumatic not having a will can be. While I’m no lawyer, I’ve worked with parents who wanted advice on how to ensure fair distribution of assets when the time comes, and I’ve also advised newly bereaved children from the finest families who suddenly find a wedge driven between them simply because a parent passed away. When money and assets were involved, too many things got in the way of the siblings being friends – something that could have been avoided if there had been a will.

If you have a business, it must be run long after you’re gone. Don’t your clients and customers deserve to have that consideration and a competent replacement? They won’t get that if you don’t put all those directives into a will. If you can’t do it for yourself or your family, do it for your customers. If your family depends on the income you make with your business, then you definitely need to protect them now. You can’t do it after you’re gone unless you’ve left instructions in a will.

Some of my clients are attorneys or other business professionals who have regaled me enough with stories about the repercussions of not having a will can have that I feel I must share this one critical piece of advice.

There’s enough drama, personality clashes, issues and even fights that happen with the most detailed of wills and agreements. Not having a will? I hate to think of what could happen. But there surely isn’t a reason not to write one, especially when it can eliminate at least some of those concerns.

People don’t write wills for one or more reasons: They think writing one is “tempting fate.” They don’t want to think about death and dying and “getting their affairs in order. Or they think they will never die, at least not any time soon. They all assume “there is plenty of time.” There’s not. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow.

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In fact, I recently came across a halachic decision that “someone who does not write a will violates the Torah prohibition: “Do not place a stumbling block before a blind person.”

Money talks, and being ethical in business is a lifelong challenge for all of us. But when someone loses a loved one and is thrown into a position of dealing with assets that are highly valuable and tempting to those around the loved one, it makes no sense to place those you’ve left behind in such a situation – especially because you love them so much.

I know this is not pleasant to think about (even more so in many ways than a prenuptial agreement). Who wants to think depressing thoughts during happy times? But get it done. You’ll feel a sense of relief afterward, even if you didn’t consider this a burden to confront.

My will is quite short and simple. It merely says that my children each get an equal split of my assets, and that my wife is in charge of determining all that. It was kind of weird to write a will at my age. The witnesses were smirking. So what? It lays a certain feeling inside to rest, and it enables me to be able to focus on business and my clients.

Dealing with people who are getting married is usually fun. With everyone thinking about happy times and celebration, it’s a pleasant time to be doing business with folks. On the other hand, as monument makers will attest, dealing with people during a mournful period is challenging. In fact, people who work in a morbid environment often reflect their work environment even when not at work – walking around with a glum face and mirroring what they see all day.

There’s a reason that “death insurance” is euphemistically called “life insurance.” Instead of calling the above “write a will,” how about if we call it “happy sibling trust.” Now take care of it.

Don’t let your family, assets and business get caught up in a legal mess. Take care of it today. Then clip and share this article with your parents, friends and neighbors. As an adviser, rabbi and human being who has seen so much of the sadness and pain in what goes on in other people’s lives, I beg you: get one done.

Issamar Ginzberg is a business adviser, marketer, professional speaker and rabbi who has been published in more than 50 business publications. He can be reached at issamar@issamar.com.

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