This Is One Way to Show Your Family You 'Hate' Them, According to Dave Ramsey

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  • Dying without a will frequently means letting a court make personal decisions for you.
  • Planning for death is not enjoyable, but it can save your loved ones from dealing with a mess.
  • Adding inexpensive term life insurance to a will covers all the bases.

Nothing like leaving a slew of people frustrated to cement your reputation.

It's safe to assume that Dave Ramsey was employing a bit of hyperbole when he said, "If you hate the people in your family, leave unclear instructions and no will. Because they will all fight (for) the rest of their lives over your crap."

Ramsey's not wrong about the value of a will, though.

A quick 11-second clip

An 11-second clip of Ramsey's comment on TikTok elicited a ton of responses. That's likely because most of us have lost people we care about, and some of those people died without a will in place.

Before moving on to what happens when a person dies without a will, let's consider the cost of a funeral. In 2022, the average cost of burying someone was just shy of $7,900. Dying without a will, prepaid funeral plan, or life insurance means leaving payment up to family and friends. You have to decide if you want those people to take money from their savings or retirement accounts to cover your funeral costs.

What happens when you die without a will

You'll be gone and won't have to worry about what happens if you die without a will. However, the people you care about may be in for a long, drawn-out process, possibly in probate court.

If you don't have much money, don't own property, and all your accounts are payable-on-death, your estate may not go to probate. If there's more to consider -- like a home, vehicle, retirement account, bank account, children, or pets -- someone has to decide where it's all going to go. That's why most estates end up in probate court.

Probate is the legal process of deciding what happens to your assets after your death. If you die without a will, the first thing a probate court will do is appoint an executor. If you die without a will, you've presumably not named an executor, so the person who gets the job may or may not be thrilled.

If you have children, the surviving parent generally gets custody. If there is no surviving parent or that person is incapable of caring for the children, the court will ask family members to volunteer as guardians. If no one steps up or is fit for the job, the children may become wards of the state.

Because pets are considered personal property, they will be distributed by the probate court in much the same way as a television or a bicycle.

If you want more control over the situation, you need a will to spell out your wishes.

A basic will

A will doesn't have to be elaborate to be effective. A basic will will cover the following:

  • Your personal information: This includes your full legal name, date of birth, and address.
  • List of assets: This includes everything from your collection of vinyl records to the money in your savings account. You'll also name who you want to receive the assets.
  • List of your beneficiaries: These are the people you want to leave your worldly goods to. Beneficiaries can be anyone, from family members to charities.
  • An executor: The executor will be in charge of taking care of unresolved matters, like paying bills and taxes. They'll also oversee that your wishes are carried out, so make sure to name someone you trust.
  • Guardian(s): If you have children under the age of 18 or disabled or elderly dependents, you get to appoint who will act as their legal guardian upon your death. The same is true of pets.
  • Signatures: You'll sign your will, along with witness signatures if required by your state.

How much does a will cost?

The average fee to have an attorney draw up a simple will is about $300. A more complicated will could be up to $1,000 or more.

You've worked hard for all you have, and undoubtedly have people you care about. While shelling out hundreds of dollars for a will may not sound like fun, the peace of mind a will brings may be priceless.

One more way to help those you leave behind

It's tough to talk about the value of wills without including how much life insurance can benefit the people you love. According to, only 50% of us have a policy. And among adults aged 25 to 44, the percentage is only 46% -- a 14% decrease in life insurance ownership over the past 10 years.

Not only would a life insurance policy help cover those funeral costs we discussed earlier, but it can also help replace your income, allow your loved ones to stay in the family home, and make it possible for your children to attend college. Even if you don't have a family, a life insurance policy gives you the opportunity to leave money to the cause or causes you care most about.

May be less expensive than you think

It's easy to suspect that the reason half of us don't have life insurance is due to finances. You may be surprised to learn that a term life policy can be quite affordable. For example, take a look at the average monthly premium for a healthy adult by age, sex, and level of coverage:

Age Gender $250k $500k $750k $1,000,000
25 Female $10.95 $16.37 $21.79 $22.98
Male $12.30 $19.08 $25.86 $30.54
35 Female $12.45 $18.20 $24.54 $30.53
Male $13.80 $21.64 $29.70 $33.93
45 Female $21.24 $36.95 $52.67 $67.85
Male $26.19 $46.67 $67.24 $87.81
55 Female $45.37 $84.36 $123.78 $158.80
Male $61.24 $114.71 $169.30 $221.55
Data source: The Annuity Expert.

You'll notice that the younger you are when you buy a policy, the less expensive it is. The good news is that premiums do not increase. Let's say you're a female who purchases a 30-year, $500,000 policy at age 35. You'll still only be paying $18.20 per month through your 40s, 50s, and into your mid-60s when the policy expires.

There are parts of adulting that are not a laugh a minute, and creating a will and buying life insurance certainly fall into this category. However, Dave Ramsey is right about one thing: Leaving this planet without legal documents in place could leave the people you love in a mess.

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