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7 Important Reasons Why Anyone Needs a Will

By Catherine Hodder, Esq. | Last updated on

The most common reason someone does not have a will is procrastination. The second-most common reason people do not have a will is that they do not think it is worth it. They think, "I'm not rich, so what is the big deal?"

However, there are many reasons why making a last will and testament is critical to protect your family, your money, and your assets.

1. Speed Up Probate

If you die without a will, you die "intestate." That means the court does not know who you want to handle your estate (your personal representative) and who you want to inherit your estate (your beneficiaries). A probate court has a lengthy process to answer those questions.

Despite what you may hear, everyone goes through probate. The difference is if you go through quickly or get stuck. Having a will gives the probate court instructions about your wishes, making it a streamlined process. Therefore, it saves your estate time and money.

2. Decide Who Will Inherit Your Estate

You may feel your family knows your wishes about handling your estate. That is all well and good, but it does not matter to the court. The court follows state intestacy laws.

For example, if you have a spouse and no kids, you might naturally assume your spouse will inherit all you have. Not so fast! Under intestacy laws, most states give half of your estate to your surviving spouse and half to your parents. And if your parents aren't living, their share will go to your siblings. And you may not like your siblings.

And if the court can't find your heirs, guess who keeps your money? There is a saying in the estate planning business: "If you don't have a will, the state has one for you."

In your will, you outline who will inherit your estate. You provide the names and addresses of your beneficiaries so your personal representative can contact them.

3. Name a Guardian for Your Minor Children

If you have children under 18, who will care for them after you die? In a will, you name who you want to care for your children. You know your family best, don't leave it up to a probate court. They do not understand your family dynamics as you do.

A probate court determines what is best for your children if you don't name a guardian in your will. You (or they) may not be happy with the decision.

4. Provide for Minor Children and Dependents

Some of your beneficiaries, such as your children, may be too young to inherit. Or your beneficiary may be unable to inherit due to a disability. In your will, you can set up a testamentary trust to provide money for your children until they can handle it on their own. Testamentary trusts are a great tool to safeguard money when beneficiaries can't manage it.

5. Preserve Your Wishes

The only way your family will know your wishes is to write them down in a will. For example, you may have promised your brother, who helped build your cabin, that he could have it someday. But if you die without putting it in writing, a court could divide that property among all your family.

6. Reduce Family Infighting

There is much confusion after you die. Your family members may disagree on how you want to distribute your estate. For example, your son might say, "Dad told me to sell the vintage car," but your daughter might say, "I know he wanted to keep it in the family."

Avoid family conflict by stating your wishes in a will. You reduce family chaos and your loved ones wondering, "What would Dad want us to do?"

7. Donate to Charity

As stated above, the probate court follows intestacy laws to distribute your estate. They do not make any charitable donations.

So, you may have been president of the local ASPCA, devoted your life to preventing animal cruelty, and want to leave your money to benefit animals. But it does not matter if you die without a will. You can only make charitable donations from your estate in your will.

What Are You Waiting For?

With a will, you provide for your family and friends, protect your children and dependents, make charitable donations, and reduce time and money spent in probate court. For these reasons, having a will is a big deal.

But making a will doesn't have to be. If your will is simple and straightforward, you can make a will online. Or for more complicated family dynamics, you can contact an estate planning attorney to help you.

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