The Top 4 Reasons to Make a Will
More than half of American adults don’t have a will, says a survey by legal website RocketLawyer.com. Are you among them? Although creating a will can raise sensitive end-of-life questions, it can also help you and your family protect what matters most. Consider these four important reasons for making a will.
1. You Decide Who Executes Your Estate
Who will manage your estate when you pass? If you die without a will (i.e., dying “intestate”), a court will appoint an executor to manage and direct your estate, including distributing your possessions and appointing guardians for minor children, says Thomson Reuters’ FindLaw. Appointing a trusted executor of your choice in your will helps ensure your estate is managed according to your wishes. Plus, an executor’s role also includes winding down your final affairs, such as closing credit cards and bank accounts and paying final bills.
FindLaw says the executor can be any trusted person, such as a close friend or family member. Don’t forget to check that your appointed executor is willing and able to serve in that capacity. Depending on the size and complexity of your estate, you may also want to appoint a lawyer or financial professional who can manage complex finances or inheritance issues.
2. You Decide Who Inherits Your Estate
One of the most common (and widely understood) reasons for creating a will is to specify who receives your possessions upon your death. A will makes clear which persons or organizations (such as charities or universities) receive all or part of your property when you die, says the American Bar Association (ABA). This includes homes, vehicles, financial assets and any other personal property you wish to pass on.
You should also keep in mind that some states have community property laws governing spousal inheritance. A surviving spouse is entitled to half your wealth in these states, no matter how much you specifically designate in your will, says the ABA. This is why it may be valuable to consult with a knowledgeable professional as part of your estate planning.
3. … And Who Doesn’t
Wills can also be used to disinherit persons who may otherwise be entitled to receive a portion of your estate, says FindLaw. Absent a will, all or parts of your estate may end up in the hands of someone you intended to disinherit (such as an ex-spouse or relatives with whom you’ve cut off contact). Business Insider recommends updating your will yearly to reflect life changes (such as a divorce or birth of a child). You can use this opportunity to specify which persons should receive specific assets based on your new circumstances.
4. You Decide Who Cares for Minor Children & Manages Trusts
RocketLawyer says appointing a guardian to care for minor children is another important reason to make a will. Absent a will, the court will appoint an official guardian for minor children. That’s why it’s crucial to select a trusted guardian for your kids — and perhaps even a backup in case the selected guardian dies.
It’s also important to know that children under the age of 18 cannot manage inherited property on their own, according to HG.org. A will can be used to create a trust for your minor children and appoint a trustee who will care for their inheritance until they reach adulthood.
Creating a will has numerous benefits for you and your family — and it doesn’t have to be difficult. Though many people trust attorneys to help them create a will, you can also do it yourself, using the assistance of online or software solutions to help you craft a legally sound document. Whichever method you choose, creating a will may offer the peace of mind that your loved ones will be cared for as you intended.