Do you have a will? That is, do you have a legal document that outlines your wishes regarding the distribution of your property and other important considerations? Between 1/2 to 2/3 of American adults don’t have a will. But do you need one?
The answer is a resounding yes, if you answer yes to any of the questions below:
1. Do you care who gets your property if you die?
2. Do you care who gets your money if you die?
3. Do you care who is appointed the guardian of your minor children if you die?
There’s a lot of debate among professionals about who needs a will. And while you can make the argument that it’s always better to have a will, here are the specific categories of people who need (and who don’t need) a will:
Are you married? You need a will.
If you are married, then you need a will because your spouse is someone who is so closely tied to you that it’s important for you to put in writing whether she or he gets your assets upon your death.
Traditionally, your spouse would likely inherit your things even if you die without a will, but you shouldn’t leave that up to chance. Additionally, if you want anyone other than your spouse to receive any of your assets, you would need to include that in your will because that isn’t the default.
Do you have kids? You need a will.
If you have kids, you need a will because your kids are likely to inherit your things if you die intestate, after your spouse, but not necessarily. This means that if you want your kids to inherit after your spouse, then you need to put that in writing so there is no room for error or interpretation by the courts. Additionally, if you don’t want one of (or all of) your kids to inherit, then that needs to be in writing.
Another reason why a will is important if you have kids is because you name a personal representative of your estate and a guardian of your children. The personal representative is responsible for distributing your assets, and the guardian is responsible for raising your children. Who you name as personal representative and as guardian is critically important to how your children inherit and how they are raised.
You can (and should) change your will over time. For example, if you have two kids, create a will, then ten years later, have another kid, you will need to update your will to include your third child.
Do you have a positive net worth? You need a will.
If you are single and don’t have kids, but you do have a positive net worth, then you should have a will. Because you have assets that need to be distributed when you die, it’s easier on your family and anyone else involved if you put it in writing (in a will) how you want your assets to be distributed.
But what does a will really do?
If you pass away and have a will: Your property and assets will be distributed according to your wishes.
If you pass away and don’t have a will: State law governs who gets your property and assets. Usually, your spouse and/or children will take priority and inherit your stuff, but that’s not necessarily true. If you don’t have a spouse or kids, then it’s more complicated.
Would you like more information on wills, the process of starting one, and the cost of having an attorney draft your will? Contact us today to set up an appointment: (970) 888-3093