Monday, January 26, 2009

The day the music died ....and didn't leave a will

For all the other reasons we remember Buddy Holly's death 50 years ago next week, there's a personal finance lesson for us too. It's never too soon to put your affairs in order.

The airplane crash that killed Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, J.P, Richardson on Feb. 3, 1959 is still an especially big deal in north Iowa where I grew up. A local paper there, the Mason City Globe-Gazette is running video interviews with Jim Collison and Elwin Musser, the first news people on the scene, recalling what they saw.

But decades later, I see another facet of the story that I didn't think of as a 12-year-old fan.
None of the three entertainers apparently had a will in place when they died. That soon caused a tangle of complications that probably no one imagined until they started unfolding.

Nationally, our preparations for loved ones we're going to leave behind are a mess. Estate planning attorneys tell me maybe only three people in 10 have made a will or other plan and that many of those may be outdated by a decade or more.

You need some kind of plan, even if you don't have a lot of money to leave someone. If you die, or become too injured or ill to make decisions on your own, you'll want to leave instructions for someone to do what you would want. You'll want to pick someone to take the kids if your partner can't. Those instructions are what makes a plan.

Creating a will is easy, once you get past some creepiness you might feel before you start. Creating a trust is more complicated, but still manageable. And, if you get your affairs in order now, it may reduce the chance that your kids end up selling caskets on e-Bay.

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