Contrary to popular opinion, a will is not only for the wealthy. It allows you to decide how your assets are distributed once you pass away.
More than 50% of Americans think that estate planning is at least somewhat important, but only 33% have a will or living trust. That number has only slightly increased from 2020, perhaps due to COVID. The youngest adults have been getting wills set up more since 2020, which is a positive trend.
When asked why they don’t have a will; 40 percent say they’ve just been putting it off, 33 percent of respondents believe they don’t have enough assets to leave behind, 13 percent think it’s too expensive, and 12 percent are uninformed about how to get a will.
What happens if I die without a will?
If you die without a will in place, the legal term is “intestate,” in which a local probate court will then attempt to make the decisions they believe you would have wanted in terms of asset division. While your estate (what you legally leave behind) may still go through probate, a will can simplify the process by clearly stating your wishes among any interested parties.
In addition to having the probate court attempt to make decisions on your behalf, not having a will can be costly and time-consuming for your loved ones attempting to settle things on your behalf instead of being allowed to grieve your loss together.
If your family has siblings involved, it can often get tense when they try to split sentimental items of yours on their own. Taking the time to address directives for assets ahead of time will save your loved ones unnecessary stress.
What does a will cover?
A will enables you to predetermine how your things will be handled after your death. This includes assets in the bank (including business assets), stocks, jewelry, homes, vehicles, collections, furniture, pets and even children – in some cases.
Another issue to note is that a will cannot control assets that are under joint ownership, or override beneficially designations, such as an IRA or life insurance policies.
Who handles the administration of the will upon my death?
In the creation of your will, you’ll name an executor of your estate. That person – usually a fiscally responsible spouse, adult child, etc., will be responsible for ensuring that your property gets settled through completion. Importantly, your executor should be empowered to pay your bills and deal with debt collectors. Make certain the will allows for this and gives your executor leeway to take care of any related, yet unaddressed, issues that aren’t explicitly mentioned in your will.
What’s the difference between estate planning and having a will?
An estate plan is a broader plan of action for your assets that may apply during your life as well as after your death. A will, on the other hand, dictates where your assets will go after you die, who will be the guardian of your children and more, according to SmartAsset.
When should I use an attorney to assist me with my will?
There are often issues that an experienced attorney will know to address that you haven’t considered or didn’t know applied to your situation, so consulting an attorney can assure that your specific situation has all its bases covered and your will is legally binding. They can also help avert complicated family dynamics. Most often, an attorney can help reduce the tax burden on beneficiaries you name in your will.