A will can be an inexpensive estate planning solution, and in general, everyone should have one. For most people, writing a will is not complicated. An attorney who specializes in estate planning can help you ensure that nothing will be missed, giving you peace of mind that your property will be distributed according to your wishes.
What is a will?
A will, also known as a Last Will And Testament, gives you control over what happens to your property. This written document indicates how to distribute your property at death. You can change your will at any time, or revoke (cancel) your will.
Reasons to write a will
Even if you don’t have a large estate to pass down, you still need a will. This is particularly true if you have children. A will establishes a guardian to care for your children if you pass away before they are adults. If you have a partner but are not married, a will is your chance to leave something to your partner. In most states, if one dies without a will and is not married, the partner will not receive anything from the decedent’s estate.
A will is not just used to pass down large amounts of money or substantial property. If you have personal items such as jewelry, china, or other heirlooms that you wish to leave to charity or to certain relatives or friends, a will is the best way to do so.
Often, a written will can prevent family disputes by providing a written record of your wishes. Even if there are no major disagreements, writing a will can save your heirs significant hassle as your estate is handled following your death.
What happens if I don’t have a will?
The bottom line is that if you don’t have a will, a court will decide what happens to your belongings. If you don’t have a written will, you are considered to have died “intestate” meaning the state will distribute your assets according to the law setting out which of your heirs will inherit property. Although laws vary from state to state, most states will split your assets between your surviving spouse and children; if you’re single with no children, the state will decide among your blood relatives who will inherit your estate. Friends, unmarried partners, or your favorite charities will receive nothing if you don’t have a will. Without a will, family members may disagree about who receives your personal property, which can lead to long and costly legal battles that could have been prevented if you had a will.