Many people believe that only wealthy people need to write a will. Others dismiss the importance of a will because they don’t have children. And then there are those who know they should have one, but aren’t sure why. The truth is, whether you have lots of money or not, whether you have no children or several, and even if you are single, you should have a will.
Still think you don’t need a will? Think again. Here are 12 reasons why you need a will:
1. Your will is the means by which you advise your state of residence who you want to take ownership of your property upon your death. If you don’t have a will, the state must make that decision for you. And if it just so happens that you’re not on good terms with your brother, the state doesn’t care. Are you thinking your son doesn’t deserve a penny either? Without a will, you don’t get to decide who gets what.
2. You can purchase a do-it-yourself will kit for under $100 or you can hire an attorney to draft a will for $200-$700, depending on the complexity of your situation. If you die without a will, it could cost your survivors several thousand dollars in court costs and legal expenses. On top of that, there are the months, if not years, of court proceedings. And quite often, investment dollars needed by a surviving spouse or other family member to pay bills on inherited properties remain completely inaccessible during this time.
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3. With a will, you get to pick a trusted friend or family member to carry out your wishes on your behalf (the executor). Without a will, the state may hire a stranger to do it.
4. If you have minor children, your will is where you indicate who you want to care for them. Without a will, you’re leaving it to chance. Even worse, family members could fight each other for custody, creating a negative environment for your children.
5. Your will allows you to indicate how much money you want to go to each of your children, and when. Without a will, they may get nothing, ever, or all of it, all at once.
6. Because of the way intestacy (without a will) laws are designed, in most states, it is quite possible that all of your assets could end up in the hands of your in-laws, leaving your side of the family with nothing.
7. Without a will, in most states, the laws of intestacy will limit the distribution of assets to parents, siblings, and children. They typically provide nothing to grandchildren and step-children.
8. Wills can include verbiage, such as a spendthrift clause, to prevent beneficiaries in unfortunate situations from losing the money to creditors, or potentially irresponsible beneficiaries from getting themselves into trouble with a sudden financial windfall. In addition, if you have an heir with special needs who relies on public services, he or she could lose those benefits. These issues can be avoided through provisions included in a will.
9. Your surviving spouse could get less than you intended if you don’t indicate this in a will.
10. Do you intend on leaving something to your favorite charity or faith based group? That’s not likely to happen unless you state so in your will.
11. Without a will, your family members may end up fighting over your money and family heirlooms. With a will, this could be avoided.
Admittedly, the process of making a will takes time and effort. It may even raise some questions on which you and your partner, if you have one, may not see eye to eye. But imagine the peace of mind that will come from knowing that your affairs are in order, and you no longer have to worry so much about “what if …” I guess that’s reason number 12.