Creating a will is a must for almost everyone these days. As it turns out, creating a legally enforceable Last Will and Testament isn’t all that difficult, despite what most people assume to be the case. Furthermore, having a will can save your loved ones from a time-consuming struggle with state probate courts, who will then determine how to distribute your assets following state laws, rather than according to your last desires or instead of following your preferences. That’s why it’s essential to write a will now or contact an experienced estate planning attorney. Here are some equally compelling reasons to draft a will as soon as possible:
Have Someone Carry on Your Wishes
You’ll need to choose one trustworthy and honest person to serve as the executor of your Will and estate. This does not have to be a person of your immediate family, though. This person is accountable for:
- Inventorying your property and assets, assuring any remaining debt and taxes (including estate taxes) are funded;
- Correctly distributing your properties;
- Notifying your financial institutions and creditors that you have passed away, and;
- Directing your estate through the probate court process, among other things. (Please note that irrespective of whether or not a will exists, all assets are formally distributed via probate court, and having a choice in place makes this system considerably easier.) If you do not designate an executor, the state will do so on your behalf, and anybody may petition the court to be appointed to this role in your absence.
Prevent the State From Deciding
Both an “oral will” (last wishes stated out in front of witnesses) and a “holographic will” (a document written up by you without the needed presence of witnesses) may not have much legal bearing in a legal court of justice. Having a legally drafted Will signed by two, or often three, witnesses may be the most effective method to guarantee that your money and assets are distributed to the descendants you want to distribute them to.
Intestacy rules differ from state to state, but in a person’s death without a Will, their possessions are often distributed to close family members first (children, spouse, and parents). It is common for your assets to be divided in any of these ways:
- Among your siblings and their children;
- Between your children and parents;
- Between your grandparents and their children, or;
- Between your aunts and uncles and their children.
The state may also decide if one or both spouses perish and they have community property. Several states treat property owned by a married couple as “community property,” which means that any assets acquired during the marriage are shared equivalently by both wife and husband (including any outstanding debts). For example, if one of you passes without leaving a Will stating who should get what, the intestacy rules of your state will make the decision.
Protect Your Minor Children
In particular, new moms and dads should be diligent in preparing their wills since a will defines who will be in charge of your children’s welfare in the eventuality that you (or you and your spouse) pass away unexpectedly. If there is no Will in place, the issue is left to the discretion of the court. The terms of your will should specify how you want your trust, company, or a substantial quantity of assets divided among your children now or when they meet a certain age.
If you have a trust, a company, or a significant amount of assets that you would like to divide your children now or after they achieve a certain age, your Will should specify how you want them divided.
You Have the Freedom to Change Your Will Anytime
At any point in time, if your marital status evolves or you realize that you’d want to alter the identities of your successors, you may request that your Will be officially changed. You may write a new Will or add a Codicil to your current Will to accomplish your goals. It is important to remember that certain states also demand that Wills and Codicils be notarized, so be sure to check the intestacy rules of your particular state before signing anything. In any scenario, getting your Will notarized will only serve to strengthen its legal standing.
If you need legal counsel on your Will, you should consult with an attorney specializing in estate law in your state of residency. They should be available for any queries you have. Also available is further material on making a will that is proper and legally binding, planning for the unanticipated, and estate planning with the assistance of a lawyer.