Top 10 Reasons Why You Need a Will
What is a will?
A will is a legally-binding document that you create to establish your plan for who will inherit your estate and what should happen after you die. Within the will you can nominate a personal representative, executor, to carry out your detailed instructions which can help ensure that important decisions are not left to the discretion of a local court and your state’s default laws.
Why should you have a will?
Wills are not only meant to help the rich and wealthy. A will ensures that your final wishes are heard regardless of the size of your estate. Here are some of the top reasons on why you should create a will:
- A will puts you in control. A will lets you decide how your estate will be distributed upon your death. You get to choose who will benefit from your estate, what they are entitled to receive, and when they are allowed to receive it. If you die without a will, there is no guarantee that your intended wishes will be carried out because your state’s intestacy rules will govern who benefits from your estate which might produce undesirable results.
- Appoint legal guardian(s) for your minor children. A will allows you to make an informed decision about who you want to care for your minor children. This lets you appoint the legal guardian who you want to raise your children. Otherwise the court will be in control of deciding amongst your family members or choosing a state-appointed guardian meaning the court might appoint someone you don’t want to raise your kids.
- Minimize stress. Your estate will still be required to go through the probate process with a will, however the lengthy process will be expedited. Having a will informs the court how you wish your estate to be divided and removes the unnecessary delays that are common when the court has to decide, on its own, how best to divide your estate. Thus, having a will can save time, money and stress for your heirs.
- Make donations and gifts. A will provides the ability to make gifts and donations upon your death. As well as supporting some of your favorite charities, a portion of the gifts and donations will be excluded from estate tax, thereby increasing the value of your estate for your beneficiaries.
- Appoint a personal representative/executor. A will allows you to choose who will wind up the affairs of your estate. Executors play a major role in the administration of your estate by making sure all of your affairs are in order, so you will want to appoint someone you can trust who is reliable and organized.
- Avoid family disputes. If you forego creating a will, your family might try to divide up your estate themselves and chances are they won’t always agree. This can more often than not lead to friction and fights amongst families that are difficult to repair.
- Disinherit individuals. Absent a will, your estate may end up in the hands of someone you did not intend to receive any portion. A will gives you the power to ensure that some people don’t receive anything.
- Provide for your pets. In your will you can name a person to act as a caretaker or guardian for your pet and leave them funds to provide for your pet’s care.
- Offer funeral instructions. You can include funeral instructions in your will which can lessen the burden and stress of making these decisions on your loved ones after you pass. These instructions are not binding, but can provide guidance on who you like to serve as the funeral executor to manage the procession and where you want your final resting place.
- Flexibility to change as circumstances change. Because a will is not effective until your death you have the ability to change it at any time while you are alive as your circumstances change. For example, you can amend your will to reflect births, adoptions, marriage, divorce, etc.
Procrastination and the fear of death are common factors for not creating a will. But as explained above, there are many reasons why creating a will should be a priority in your life. Before an unexpected death or disability occurs, it may be wise to meet with an estate planning lawyer to help create an estate plan that best meets your needs.
-By: Dylan Wilson, Law Clerk, Windrose Law Center PLC
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