Writing a will is a responsible step that every adult should take. Nevertheless, the number of American adults who don’t have a will ranges from one-half to two-thirds. It’s easy to put off thinking about unpleasant things such as end-of-life issues, and some people may have a superstitious dread that making out a will is somehow tempting fate. However, eventually everyone is going to die, and by not having a will in place, you’re tempting fate in a different way. In other words, you run the risk of dying without an estate plan, which could lead to legal trouble for your would-be heirs.
What Does a Will Do?
Two of the most important functions of a will are to distribute assets and property to surviving loved ones and establish guardianship of minor children.
Even if you’re not wealthy, you likely have at least some assets, such as a car, a house, or a bank account. Making out a will allows these assets to pass to the people you would prefer to have them in the event of your death.
If you have young children, a will is absolutely essential to name a guardian to care for them in the event that both you and the other parent die. Be sure to discuss the matter with your intended guardian before naming him or her in your will and name an alternate as well in case your first choice is no longer able to serve as guardian.
Perhaps you do not have any children but you do have pets. Even though a comfort animal does not have legal status, your pets rely on you for care and will continue to need looking after in the event of your death. You can use a will to name someone to care for your pet after you’re gone.
What Happens if You Don’t Have a Will?
A person who dies without a will is described as intestate. If you die intestate, it is up to the court to make decisions as to who will serve as guardian for your children, take care of your pets, and inherit your property. These decisions are made on the basis of rules that reflect how the average person is likely to distribute his or her property. These rules are known as intestate succession, and they don’t take the wishes of the decedent into consideration because it is impossible to know for sure what they are once the person is no longer around to express them. As a result, your property and guardianship of your children may fall to people you would not choose yourself.
By making out a will, you allow your wishes to be known even from beyond the grave. Contact us to see how you can get started.