A group of Iowa’s estate planners is launching a campaign called Leave A Legacy that’s designed to get Iowans thinking long-term.
Ronni Begleiter, president of the Iowa Academy of Trust and Estates Counsel, says most people need a will, but fewer than half of us have them. She says a will allows you to leave your legacy the way you want it to be managed, not the way the state or your family may want.
“Inevitably, people are going to pass away. I’ve not heard of anybody who managed to escape that,” Begleiter says. “Your will is your chance to say what you want to happen for your family or other people you care about.”
Begleiter, a Des Moines lawyer, says discussing one’s own demise can be very difficult for some people to handle, but it’s a necessary conversation.
“There’s that fear that if you talk about it, it might happen,” Begleiter says. “Sometimes, it’s hard for people because they have to answer questions that they don’t want to answer. The most painful one is: Who would raise your children if you’re not here to do it?”
In addition to having a will, she says Iowans should also have a lawyer draw up two other documents, power of attorney and medical power of attorney. They sound similar, but they’re different.
If you’re temporarily disabled by a car accident, for example, the power of attorney gives someone you appoint the ability to sign your tax returns, monitor your investments and pay your bills. The -medical- power of attorney authorizes someone to make your medical decisions for you, like taking you off life support if you’re in a coma.
Begleiter says this is an important, sometimes-difficult choice.
“You may not want the softest, most cuddly person in your family because they may not be able to make some hard decisions,” Begleiter says. “You may not want the toughest person in your family because you may not like the way they would make those decisions.”
Drawing up will may cost a minimum of $500, but she says it’s money very well-spent, considering it’s the ultimate statement you’ll make about your net worth and how you want it dispersed when you’re gone.