Do I need a will? Yes. Even if you don’t have vast fortunes, a Will is an important component of any estate plan. Below are some key functions and important benefits of having a properly drafted Will.
Appoint a Guardian for Minor Children
Parents, this is the most important task your Will accomplishes. Imagine everyone in your life, and possibly your spouse’s, life who could serve as Guardian: parents, brothers, sisters, brothers and sisters-in-law, even close friends. Now imagine a judge picking one of these people at random. Was it who you wanted? Without direction from you, this is exactly what happens and, depending on your family and friends, could lead to a scary result. Avoid this risk and make it clear through your Will whom you want to care for your children. (For more information on selecting a Guardian, see my post here.)
Without a Will, your property will pass according to a process known as “intestate succession.” Intestate succession laws vary by state but typically provide for your spouse (if you’re married), children (if you have any), and parents and other family members after that. But suppose you’re not close with one of your parents and prefer your estate go to the other. Suppose your sister is very wealthy and you’d rather make gifts to your brother. Suppose you have a close friend you’d rather receive your estate than family members. Without a Will providing direction on the distribution of your assets, none of these objectives will be obtained.
Disinherit Potential Beneficiaries
Just as you can provide for beneficiaries under your Will, you can disinherit beneficiaries who would otherwise receive through intestate succession, or provide for them in more appropriate ways. It’s a fact of life that sometimes families have conflict. You simply might not want your hard-earned assets to go to an estranged family member or a relative who has never been in your life. If a family member is struggling with debt or addiction issues, leaving him out of your Will and providing for him through a funded Trust could better achieve your goals.
Nominate an Executor
The role of paying your debts, taking inventory of your estate and distributing it to beneficiaries is a difficult and important one. Nominating an Executor in your Will keeps the decision-making authority in your hands, not a judge’s who is unfamiliar with your values. In addition, you can make the Executor’s role easier by waiving the requirement that your Executor post bond.
Avoid Lengthy Probate
A common misconception is that you can avoid probate with a Will. (You need a Trust for this.) In truth, the estate of individuals who die with or without a will must all go through probate. The big difference is with a Will, the probate process is much simpler and faster.
Avoid Family Conflict
In addition to appointing the Guardians and Executor you want, you’re also making the choice simple for them. Well-meaning friends and relatives could petition the court for custody, each arguing they’re the best choice to raise your child. Avoid the stress and turmoil this can cause by stating your preferences clearly. The more clarity you can provide, the better.
Provide For Charity
Your Will is the perfect place to make a final donation to a cause or charity you wish to support. Most charities are continually struggling for funds and would be very appreciative of a gift and making one can provide some much-needed support to a cause you believe in.
Review All Assets
Drafting a Will is an excellent time to review all of your assets to ensure the beneficiaries are properly designated. A Will is just one tool in your overall estate plan and assets like IRAs and life insurance policies often pass outside of your estate. (For more information on other assets that pass outside of probate, see my post here.) Make sure your Will distributes assets consistent with your overall plan and take the opportunity to review them all at once.
For questions about a Will and its benefits, or to discuss creating one for yourself, call Asurest at any time to set up a meeting. We’ll be happy to meet and figure out what’s best for you.
This material is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Responses to inquiries, whether by email, telephone, or other means, do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create or imply the existence of an attorney-client relationship.
Disclaimer: This material is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Responses to inquiries, whether by email, telephone, or other means, do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create or imply the existence of an attorney-client relationship.