10 Reasons You Need a Will

July 16, 2021

10 Reasons You Need a Will

July 16, 2021

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In the event that you die or become incapacitated, have you adequately entrusted your assets to those you love? Wills are not just for the wealthy. According to caring.com, only 22.5% of 35–54-year-olds and only 44% of 55+ year-olds have estate planning documents. The Covid-19 pandemic also prompted younger people to see the importance and undertake estate planning. If you care who gets your property and assets after you die—and want to leave your legacy to your family—a will is an invaluable way to accomplish this.

What Is a Will?

According to how you see fit, a will is a legal document that names executors and beneficiaries for allocating your property (including investments, belongings, property, collectibles, and much more) and designates guardianship of minor children upon your death. A will also allow you to specify the distribution of a business you own as well. Wills do not cover life insurance policies and investment accounts designed as “transfer on death,” as these already have beneficiaries specified in the contracts.

Should you die before implementing a will, the distribution of your estate and all postmortem wishes may not be fulfilled in the manner you prefer and may be carried about by judges and/or court-appointed officials. Additionally, the responsibility to distribute your assets will likely befall your loved ones and heirs, resulting in emotional distress, financial burden, and time spent to settle your affairs. The creation of a will protects you and your loved ones from these avoidable consequences and allows you to bequeath items of your estate, both large and small, ranging from vacations homes to family heirlooms to your heirs. You can create a will yourself, but it’s essential for it to be written down and to have a witness who can attest to the will’s validity. Enlisting an estate attorney can offer greater peace of mind that all important considerations have been made and that the will is in good order.

Wills & Living Trusts: What’s the Difference?

Wills and trusts are both estate planning tools that serve a similar purpose and have features that overlap with one another. However, these documents are not the same, and significant differences between the two exist, of which you should be aware. A trust is similar to a will in that it too designates the distribution of your estate’s assets, but its most significant function is that it serves to minimize as much gift and estate taxes as possible. Unlike a will, a trust also often only deals with specific assets rather than the whole of your estate. Trusts go into effect immediately when they are signed, while wills are only effective upon the testator’s (person who creates the will) death.

Wills are also public records, whereas trusts are sealed, meaning that if there is any matter you wish to keep private, it should be stated in your trust. Another differentiating factor is that trusts cannot name guardians for your minor children in the event of your death. If that is a concern, appointing guardianship must be done in your will.

Another reason to choose a trust over a will is that all wills are subject to probate, which is the legal process of examining a will by an official court appointee. Since wills are a matter of public record, they must go through the courts. A representative will be appointed to oversee the will’s execution, distribute assets, and handle any debts or taxes. Probate may become a long, arduous process, especially if the will’s contents are contested. This ad could result in your heirs losing some of their inheritance due to attorney and court fees. A recommended best practice of estate planning is to create both a will and a trust to maximize the unique strengths and benefits presented by each respected document.

10 Reasons You Need a Will

  1. Appoint guardians for your children, if applicable
    • also allows you to designate a home for your pets
  2. Save time, money, and stress for your loved ones
    • also reduce the potential for friction and fighting between your loved ones
  3. Name executors
  4. Disinheritance, if desired
  5. Allocate gifts and donations
  6. Avoid legal challenges by having a written witnessed will
    • Disgruntled heirs, contesting probate
    • Avoid problems with and delays in distributing your assets
  1. Ability to change at any point before your death
  2. Ensure your estate is distributed according to your wishes, allowing you to leave your legacy to your loved ones or important causes
  3. Provides your funeral and burial desires and instructions
  4. Peace of mind while you’re still alive

You will want to revisit your will periodically to ensure nothing needs to be changed as your life progresses. Most importantly, make sure your family knows how to locate your will in the event of your death. A hidden won’t do any good for anyone.

Unless you trust the courts to make decisions about your estate on your behalf, a will is a must-have document. Failing to create a will can have lasting consequences that can negatively impact your loved ones.

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