A Will is a written legal document that expresses your last wishes for distribution of your property or other assets, as well as the care of any minor children. If you die without a properly drafted and executed Will, those wishes may not be carried out and your heirs may end up spending additional time, money, and emotional energy to settle your affairs after you are gone. While there are a variety of reasons to have a Will, here is a list of a few important ones.
- You decide how your Estate will be distributed. Having a will helps minimize any family fights about your estate that may arise, and also determines the “who, what, and when” of your Estate. Without a Will, the state gets involved and will oversee the distribution of your assets.
- You decide who will take care of your minor children. Having a Will allows you to appoint the person you want to raise your children. If you have minor children and die without a Will, the court will appoint a guardian. Courts follow a set formula of how to divide assets, thus without a Will, could result in actions that could negatively impact your child.
- To avoid a lengthy probate process. Having a Will speeds up the probate process and informs the court how you would like your Estate divided. Probate courts serve the purpose of administering your Estate, and when you die without a Will, the court will decide how to divide Estate without your input, which can also cause long, unnecessary delays.
- You decide who will wind up the affairs of your Estate.The person you appoint to be your Executor or Personal Representative of your Will makes sure all your affairs are in order, including paying off bills, canceling your credit cards, and notifying the bank and other business establishments. Executors play the biggest role in the administration of your estate, so you want to be sure to appoint someone who is honest, trustworthy, and organized. Oftentimes, this is a trust family member of loved one, but can be a bank or other organization.
- You can disinherit individuals who would otherwise stand to inherit.Having a Will allows you to outline who your Estate will and will not be distributed to. Without a Will, your Estate may end up on the wrong hands or in the hands of someone you did not intend it to.
- If your life circumstances change, you can change your mind.Having a Will comes with the ability to change it at any time while you are still alive. Life circumstance change and can create situations where changing your Will are necessary.
- Tomorrow is never promised.Sometimes life events happen when its least expected and the realization that aWill are necessarily comes too late. Importantly, you must be legally competent to draft your Will. To avoid the added stress on your family during an already emotional time, it may be wise to have a Will in place well in advance of any potential issues.
A Will is an essential part of planning for the future, but do not think that creating a Will is a one-time proposition. Even if you have a valid document, it may need to be updated for a variety of reasons. Some reasons to amend your Willinclude births, deaths, marriage, divorce, retirement, tax law revisions,and if the value of your assets have increased or decreased significantly, or no longer owned.