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Why should you make a will?

Updated on October 11, 2012
Why should I make a will?
Why should I make a will?

Why should you make a will? This is certainly a common question with important implications for those who choose to avoid the answer. You may be surprised to learn that over 60% of adults do not have a current will. We all believe that we will eventually take care of this important chore, but far too often it remains undone at the time of death. Here are eight reasons why you should make a will.

1. It allows you to ultimately control what happens to your assets when you die. When you prepare a will you can be certain that your property will be divided among those in the proportion that you want. This would include entities like charities for which you would like to leave money or property. Absent a will, the courts will decide who gets your property and how you property is apportioned among your heirs. In a worst case scenario, your property could even be taken by the state. By preparing a will, you can eliminate that risk.

2. Perhaps the single most important reason that you should make a will is to be sure that your children are provided with appropriate care. In drafting your will, you are able to name the caregivers for your orphaned children. Without a will, you are once again at the mercy of the state for the determination of who will care for your children.

3. It allows for the creation of trusts for dependent minors. Clearly you need to provide instruction for the care of your dependent children, but you also need to be sure that you manage what they receive and when they receive it. A trust will allow for your children to receive your assets based on your instructions rather than in a single lump sum. Further, you can assign assets for particular purposes and the trust would ensure that they are used only for the purposes you prescribe.

4. You appoint an executor to for your estate. An executor is simply a named individual who will administer your estate upon your death. Their job is to make sure that the estate is managed precisely according to the terms of your will. Absent a named executor, this responsibility falls to the courts. In preparing your will, it is vital that you name a secondary executor in the event the primary executor is unable to provide the service due to death, incapacitation, or for any other reason.

5. A will dramatically improve the time it takes to distribute your estate. Should you not have a will, you are said to have died intestate. This will force your estate into probate court. Once there, your estate will move at the speed of the court. With a will and a named executor, your estate will be managed much more effectively and your heirs will receive the proceeds of your estate much more quickly. Obviously for those who depend on you, quick access to the assets you leave behind is incredibly important.

6. By making a will, you can minimize inheritance taxes. Working with an attorney and financial planner, there are several opportunities to structure your estate in ways that allow for the reduction of inheritance taxes. However, these options are only available for those who plan their estate before their death. Once you pass away, you will not be able to shield those assets held in your estate from the maximum inheritance taxes. Much of what you built over your lifetime can be wiped away with “death” taxes.

7. It can help in avoiding family conflict. We have all heard of families that find up in probate court fighting with each other over the division of the estate. A complete and thorough will can eliminate this issue as your wishes become abundantly clear. While you cannot avoid all conflict, a will does make sure that those conflicts are minimized.

8. Your loved ones deserve the peace of mind a will provides. The bottom line here is that your family deserves the clarity and certainty of an appropriately drawn will. You do not want your final legacy to be a drawn out legal engagement that may ultimately divide your estate in ways that may run contrary to your wishes. As an adult with people who love and rely on you, it is simply an imperative that your estate be managed with your guidance. In the end, it is simply the right thing to do.

Clearly there are other good reasons the craft a will beyond those mentioned here. Each of us have unique responsibilities and every estate is different. However, the preceding list is an excellent foundation for answering the question of “Why should you make a will”. From here, it is simply your responsibility to act.

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