“Last Will and Testament.” Spooky, right? The archaic phrase fills your mind with thoughts of death or, even worse, lawyers. Not everyone is like that old-timer with nerves of steel who can sit with a straight face and speculate what health ailment will most likely be his demise and who inherits his Hess Truck collection when that time comes. Most people dislike making end-of-life decisions so much that a survey conducted by an Online Legal Service showed 32% of people would rather do their taxes or get a root canal than do their Will.
In all seriousness, though, having a Will is a very necessary part of life. A Last Will and Testament accomplishes much more than dividing up and distributing your wealth. It allows you to make inevitable end-of-life decisions in advance so that your family may fare as well as possible during an already difficult time. Here are five reasons why you should write a will, no matter your age:
- To Keep your Children in Loving Arms: You do not need money to be rich. Plenty of people with modest monetary estates say to themselves, “Wills are for rich people, I don’t have enough money to worry about it.” Well, those same people without a substantial monetary estate may be rich in other areas, such as family. A Will empowers you to direct exactly who will take care of your minor children should you die unexpectedly. Do not just assume the right people will step up and take care of your children. The last thing you want is for the State to become involved in placing your children.
- To Avoid Family Feuds over Property and Power: Plenty of people have thought, “My kids/parents/siblings/cousins are different. They will cooperate with each other.” Plenty have people have also been wrong. The combination of grief, stress, and the prospect of an inheritance have been known to turn families against each other. As attorneys, we see it every day. Addressing in advance who will inherit certain property and who will hold certain powers reduces the chance of things getting ugly.
- To Avoid Putting your Family through a Lengthy Probate Process: If there is in fact a Family Feud taking place, the last thing you want to happen is for the war to rage on for longer than necessary. If, on the other hand, your family is getting along, a relatively quick and easy estate settlement should be their reward. An Estate can take approximately a year to probate even with the existence of a Will. Not having one just prolongs the estate settlement process even more.
- To Ensure that your Assets Pass in Accordance with your Wishes: State law takes over in the absence of a Will. The State laws that govern to whom and your property shall pass and in what amount are called the “Laws of Intestacy.” Oftentimes the Laws of Intestacy direct property to be passed with strange results, especially in mixed-family situations. Do you really want all of your assets to go to that estranged ex-spouse whom you have not gotten around to divorcing yet?
- To Minimize Estate Taxes: For individuals who do have a substantial monetary estate, Estate Taxes can and should be a major concern. Having a Will in place is the first step toward favorably navigating the Tax Code. Within the body of the Will you can set forth a strategy for minimizing Estate Taxes, such as the use of Trusts.
As you may have noticed, family is the theme. You do not write a Will to benefit yourself; you write it to benefit your family. Stop putting off that Will and come see the experienced legal team at Masten and Ray so that we may help you do all you can to help your family.