Having a Will is arguably one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family. Not only can a Will protect your spouse, children and assets, it can also spell out exactly how you would like things handled after you have passed on. While each person's situation varies, here are the top 10 reasons to have a Will:
A Will is a legally binding document that lets you determine how you would like your estate to be handled upon your death. If you die without a Will, there is no guarantee that your intended desires will be carried out. Having a Will helps minimize any family fights about your estate that may arise, and also determines the “Who, What and When” of your Estate.
A Will allows you to make informed decisions about who should take care of your minor children and loved ones, this includes your pets. Absent a Will, the Court will take it upon itself to choose among family members or a state appointed guardian. Having a Will allows you to appoint the person you want to raise your children or better makes sure it is not someone you do not want to raise your children.
Contrary to common belief, all estates must go through the probate process, with or without a Will. Having a Will, however, speeds up the probate process and informs the Court how you would like your estate divided. Probate Courts serve the purpose of “administering your estate” and when you die without a Will the Court will decide how to divide your estate without your input, which can cause long, unnecessary delays.
Executors make sure all your affairs are in order, including paying off bills, cancelling your credit cards and notifying the bank and other business establishments. Because executors play the biggest role in the administration of your estate, you’ll want to appoint someone who is honest, trustworthy and organized (which may or may not always be a family member).
Most people don’t realize that they can disinherit individuals out of their Will. Yes, you may disinherit individuals who may otherwise inherit your estate if you die without a Will. Because Wills specifically outline how you would like your estate distributed, absent a Will your estate may end up in the wrong hands or in the hands of someone you did not intend, such as an ex-spouse or family members whom you do not wish, or possibly even the state.
If you die without a Will, part of your estate may pass to someone you did not intend. For example, one cause involved the estate of a deceased son who was awarded over $1 million dollars from a wrongful death lawsuit. When the son died, the son’s father, who had not been part of his life for 32 years – stood to inherit the entire estate, leaving close relatives and siblings out of the picture!
A good reason for having a Will is that you can change it at any time while you’re still alive. Life changes, such as births, deaths, and divorce, can create situations where changing your Will are necessary.
Another reason to have a Will is because it allows you to minimize your estate taxes. The value of what you give away to family members or charity will reduce the value of your estate when it is time to pay estate taxes.
The ability to make gifts is a good reason to have a Will because it allows your legacy to love on and reflect your personal values and interests.
Procrastination and the unwillingness to accept death as part of life are common reasons for not having a Will. Sometimes the realization that wills are necessary comes too late – such as when an unexpected death or disability occurs. To avoid the added stress on families during an already emotional time, it may be wise to meet an estate planning lawyer to help you draw up a basic estate plan at the minimum, before it’s too late.