Mom Left No Will
Recently I had the good fortune of talking to a young man whose mother had recently died without a Will. While still grieving, this young man quickly understood that someone needed to step up and handle his mother's final affairs. I gently guided him through the process of filing for Letters of Administration (when one dies without a Will, an Administrator is appointed to handle final affairs versus an Executor, who is actually named in a Will), and explained that the process could be difficult depending on whether or not he and the other heirs could agree on final disposition of the mother's property. He complained about the process and about the associated costs. As luck would have it, however, this young man and his siblings were, in fact, able to agree on many things and this made the process easier for him.
While great, I explained to him the “other reality” that many face in his same situation. That reality is that a person dies without a Will and the heirs fight one another for control of various assets, or make it difficult for even the simplest decision to be made. I pointed out to him that he was quite fortunate and stressed, as I always do, the importance of having a Will drafted up for himself and his family. I wanted him to see that he can plan now, to avoid the situation that his mom left him (and his siblings) in. To die without establishing your wishes can be a dangerous and rocky road for those left behind. Often, some family members, while grieving, have or develop an entitlement mentality and only a well-drafted Will can head off disputes before they start.
By not having a Will, this young man's experience with his mother's estate could have been drastically different. Picture a scenario where mom was married to someone other than the children's father and they did not get along or where there was another child that suddenly appeared on the scene after her death. There are horror stories of what families have had to go through simply because plans were not properly made. So, I told him not to complain, but to count his blessings and put his children or heirs in a better position when he dies.