John Criss lived with his parents, owned a small business and spent his entire life in the small Iowa town of Sac City. When he died at age 88, his will contained a surprise to everyone in town, except for the attorney who helped him create and execute his will.
Iowa Public Radio reports in its article, “Estate Planning: It's Never Too Early to Draw Up a Will,” that two years later, his reputation remains. He was the perfect gentleman who warmly welcomed customers into his Chief Clothing store on Main Street. Criss wanted to dress his customers in style.
However, shocking nearly all his friends and neighbors in this county seat of 2,135 people, Criss secretly was one of those quiet millionaires whose real net worth went largely unrecognized. It was revealed only when he bequeathed the vast majority of his estate—about $5.7 million—to Sac City.
He stated in his will that his money can't subsidize standard public works, such as street repair or the annual $300,000 bill to pay off the city's sewer debt.
While most don't leave a multi-million-dollar gift behind when they pass away, estate planning is essential for everyone. Researchers has found that more than 50% of Americans don’t have a will—the most basic estate planning document needed.
If you die without a will, there can be negative consequences like leaving your loved ones with no direction, perhaps leaving minor children without an assigned guardian and forcing your family to pay more in probate costs and taxes.
Your will is just a part of a complete estate plan. You’ll also want to have a health care power of attorney, a financial power of attorney and a document that provides specifics on what you would like to have done with your remains. If appropriate, your estate plan may include a trust to transfer certain assets to a trustee. An estate planning attorney will be able to explain the different types of trusts, what purposes they serve and whether or not they are appropriate to you and your family.
Reference: Iowa Public Radio (July 11, 2017) “Estate Planning: It's Never Too Early to Draw Up a Will”