Why You Should Have A Will

Most people know that wills provide many benefits, including letting them decide how their property is disposed of after they die and letting them select who will manage their estate during probate. Despite these and other significant benefits, one recent survey showed that over half the adults in the United States do not have a will. Here is information about the many ways a will can help you and your family, as well as information about making a will.

Benefits of A Will

There are many reasons why you should have a will. They include:

Determine how your property will be distributed when you die. A will lets you name your beneficiaries. These are the people and charities whom you want to receive your property when you die. If you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to state law. The property likely won’t be distributed the way you want, since it goes to recipients without regard to whether they need it or how much they need. In addition, if you die without a will, your property can end up going to family members (including distant relatives) whom you would not want to receive anything. Only with a will can you be sure your property will go to the people and charities you want and that they receive the amount of money or other property you want them to get.

Some people think they own very little property and therefore don’t need a will. But you probably own more than you think. If you recently prepared a net worth statement, you probably discovered this. If you haven’t, it can be surprising to see how much you have accumulated, especially with the increase in home and stock values that took place over the past decade or two.

Other people think they don’t need a will because they own property jointly with their spouse, and believe that he or she will automatically get the property when they die. While it’s common for homes, bank accounts and cars to be jointly owned, that’s seldom true for home furnishings, jewelry, artworks and other things of value. Also, there are complex rules about jointly owned property. If these rules are not strictly followed, property can unexpectedly be received by someone not of your choosing.

Name an executor. Another key reason why you should have a will is to name an executor. The executor will oversee your estate’s financial affairs during the probate process, including making sure your debts are paid and your property is distributed in accordance with the instructions stated in your will. Without a will, the law designates someone to handle this job. The person chosen may not be the person you would want to serve in this capacity.

Set up a trust. A will can also set up a trust, which can help protect assets and save taxes. Thus, for people with substantial assets (like a home), a will can be a cost-saving tool.

• Name a guardian. For married couples with minor children, wills are vital. Each spouse should have a will in order to select a guardian for the children in case both parents die while the children are minors. The guardian will be responsible for taking care of your child and managing your child’s money until he or she reaches adulthood. Although the guardian usually is chosen by the court, the court normally picks the person named in the will unless this person is unable or unfit to serve in this capacity.

Making Your Will

Once you decide you want a will, you must then make one. Most people have “formal wills.” These are in writing and signed by you with some special procedures. For example, a formal will must be signed by witnesses. The number of required witnesses differs by law in different states. Rules for making a formal will are technical, so you should call our law firm for help in preparing one. Not following the proper procedures could invalidate the will.

Another type of will is a “holographic will.” This is a will that is handwritten all in your own writing. Though this kind of will can seem easier to make than a formal will, it also has special rules for making it. Also, some states do not allow holographic wills. Thus, it is best to get a lawyer’s help if you are interested in creating a holographic will.

A few states still allow oral wills. However, they do so only in very limited circumstances and if certain requirements have been met.

When To Make A Will

If you don’t already have a will, it is best to make one as soon as possible. Accidents and serious illnesses can happen suddenly, and it is always best to be prepared. The only requirements for making a will are that you’re at least a certain age (18 in most states) and that you are “legally competent.” This generally means that you understand what you are doing by making a will, that you understand the nature of your assets and that you are aware of your family members and others who are affected by the will.

Some people delay making a will because their family situation is about to change. They may be about to get married or divorced, have a child, or move to another state. Because of this, they hold off making a will until this change happens. It’s true that major changes like these will probably affect your will. But you should not let an impending change stop you from making a will. You can change your will anytime you want. It’s wise to have a will in place, and then if the need later arises, to modify it.

Conclusion

Wills provide tremendous estate planning benefits. They give you the peace of mind knowing your property will be distributed the way you want when you die, that the person serving as executor is your choice, and that your children will be raised by the person you want in the event you and you spouse die while they are minors.

Call our law firm for help in making your will. Laws for making wills are specific, and you’ll want to be sure everything is done right so that your will holds up in court and your wishes are followed.

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