Do You Really Need a Will?
Many adults do not have a will. Sometimes they think they do not need one, if they do not have many assets. Others mistakenly think that having a will causes friends and family to go through probate and incur expenses after the will owner dies. Others simply do not take the time or expense to draw up a will. However, most all adults need a will for several reasons.
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What is a will?
A will is a legal document that outlines instructions for distribution of a person’s property after he dies. The owner of the will is known as the “testator.” A person can alter or revoke his will at any point and as many times as he likes during his life. The will has no legal affect on his property or assets until after his death.
What happens if you die without a will?
If you die without a will, the state in which you live bears the responsibility of distributing your property. Different states have different intestacy statutes, but generally the state will distribute your assets to your nearest heirs to handle how they wish. In some cases, your state statutes might handle the distribution of your assets as you would wish; however, this may not be the case.
Why should you have a will?
Even if you do not possess many assets, you should have a will in order to ensure that people receive items that you want to pass down to them. Since the state will not distribute specific items to specific people, your heirs may not decide who should receive what in the way that you would like. A family heirloom that you may want to give to your daughter might end up with another female relative. Having a will ensures that you can distribute your valuable items the way that you want.
If you have children who are not yet grown, you need a will to ensure that they receive their inheritances at the time and the manner of your choosing. If your children are minors and you die without a will, the probate court will establish a conservatorship to manage your children’s inheritance. Your children will receive this share upon their 18th birthday, regardless of whether they are capable of responsibly managing the funds or not. With a will, you can choose the age your child should be to receive your assets. Of course, a will is critical also for denoting guardianship of your children upon the appropriate party.
Finally, not having a will can be more expensive for your heirs than handling your assets with a will. Without a will, the administrator of your estate will have to post a surety bond, incurring additional expenses. With a will, you can choose your administrator and ensure that this will not be done.Image Credit: Marco Bellucci, Flickr