Do you really need a will?
You May Not Think You Need a Will, But You Really Do.
Most Americans do not have a simple will as part of their estate plan. You might believe a will is only for the rich and famous, and not the average person who has a far smaller net worth. On the other hand, you may think that a will is entirely unnecessary since you have a trust, jointly owned property, or have named beneficiaries on your insurance.
So, do you really need a will? The short answer to this question is “yes.” In fact, everyone who owns anything - no matter how little value it may seem to have - should have a will. This is because a will puts you in charge of directing others to follow your wishes and distribute your assets upon your death. Without a will or other estate plan - referred to as intestacy - you have no control and your state’s rules and the court determine who gets what after your death. Even if you have a trust, jointly owned property, or have named beneficiaries on your insurance, a will is an important, even as just a “backup” plan.
As a practical matter, the simpler your affairs are - typically, the fewer assets you own - the less complicated your will and estate plan is going to be. Surprisingly, it does not take much to complicate your estate. If you have minor children, for example, your will must name a guardian for those children in the event of your death. Likewise, if you have a relative who is disabled, elderly or without the financial knowledge to manage your assets after your death, a will allows you to name someone to watch over these assets for your loved ones in a special needs or supplemental needs trust. These are just two basic examples of the numerous things that can complicate your affairs and your estate plan, or that can undermine your intentions at a significant cost if you do not have a will or trust.
Many people mistakenly believe if they have made beneficiary designations on life insurance policies, property deeds or retirement accounts that a will is not necessary. While it is true those particular designations will ensure the people you elected will receive benefits or inherit those assets, the distribution stops there. If there are other assets that you own - such as cars, a family china set, a valuable collection, faimly heirlooms, or jewelry to name a few - or if you would like to give part of your estate to a charitable organization, a will is essential to your estate planning needs.
Furthermore, when a person dies without a will (referred to as intestate), the estate goes into probate. Probate is a judicial proceeding by which state law and the court decides the rightful heirs and distribution of assets of a deceased. Going through probate can be both more time consuming and expensive without a will. This is because your will can waive certain probate requirements (like having the executor post a bond or obtain judicial approval to have an estate sale). At the same time, probate without a will follows the governing state’s intestacy laws which may likely result in a less-than-perfect split of assets, which not only may not be in line with the deceased’s wishes, but may leave many surviving loved ones unhappy. Consequently, for many reasons the creation of a will can fill in gaps of property assignment or plug holes in beneficiary claims on life or other insurance policies.
Family dynamics also play a part in estate planning since state intestacy laws do not account for blended families, subsequent marriages, older couples who cohabitate after a death or divorce and never legally get married or children you wish to treat differently due to certain personal circumstances where those assets will not be distributed fairly without a will.
It is also important to note a will can include a no contest clause, reducing the likelihood potential heirs will argue over its contents, something that isn’t possible if you don’t make a will.
Creating a will as part of your estate plan is primarily about passing your wealth to your loved ones and making sure your children are properly cared for after you die since a will only “works” after it’s gone through the probate court process. It really is about giving you both independence and control of what happens to your assets after your death. Instead of leaving the distribution of your property to state intestacy laws and the court, a will can put your wishes down on paper and direct a selected person to carry out your desires exactly as expressed. So, do you really need will – the simple answer is yes so call us today.Estate Planning Chandler AZ