Even though you may use other estate planning tools for the distribution of your property, you should still have a will.
Most people need to have a will. Wills can allocate your property, designate an executor, designate guardians for any children, debt forgiveness, etc. Also, with a will it also means that you, instead of the laws in your state, determine who acquires your property when you pass away. In a lot of cases, wills are typed out legal documents that need to be signed and witnessed, but many states do acknowledge other kinds of wills.
Wills Help in Preventing Intestate Succession
When you pass away lacking a will or other type of estate plan, laws in each state, called “intestate succession laws” determines in particular, what family members will inherit your assets and property and what their share will be. In a lot of states, your spouse, children, or parents take precedence according to intestate succession.
A lot of people will want to divide their property in another way than the state would divide it. For instance, a lot of people want to leave gifts to neighbors, friends, girl/ boyfriends, educational institutions, or charitable associations – and intestate succession doesn’t permit any of those. If you wish for other individuals or associations to inherit some of your assets or property, or if you wish to choose the share of your gifts, a will makes sure your wishes are taken care of as you want.
Your Will Does a lot More than just Allocate your Property
Key to a lot of wills is the allocation of the will maker’s assets. Nevertheless, a will can do a lot more than that. For instance, you can use the will to:
- designate an executor to wrap-up your estate
- designate guardians for your child(ren) and their property
- devise trusts for your child(ren) or other juvenile beneficiaries
- forgiveness of any debts, among other things.
You may use other estate planning tools for the distribution of your property (such as living trusts, beneficiary designations, shared tenancy, and the transferring of death deeds), but only your will can offer these other helpful and important operations. A matter of fact, even if you make a living trust for the distribution of each piece of your property to your beneficiaries, you need to still have a will to – at the very minimum– designate an executor, designate a guardian for your child(ren), and include a “residuary” provisions that designates a beneficiary for any other property you may obtain after you create your trust.
A Will May Reduce Family Conflict
A will that plainly lays out your desires may minimize conflict and speculation over what you “would have” wanted.
The distribution of your estate after your passing will be very emotional. The smallest differences may result in hurt feelings and countercharging. As divorce becomes more complicated and blended families are becoming commonplace, the division of assets has become even more complex. A will that plainly lays out your desires can reduce disputes and conjecture about what you “would’ve” desired. For instance, if you’re in your 2nd marriage and have child(ren) from the 1st marriage you might want to use a will to undeniably divide your property between the 2nd spouse and your child(ren). Lacking a will or other type of plan, your property could be divided between them in accordance with state law – this could produce an uncomfortable outcome including conjecture about what you would’ve wanted. Devising a plan gives you peace of mind and prevents your family from being confrontational over who gets what.
Your Will Needs to Meet the Legal Requirements
When you create a will, you have to stick to the legal requirements. A lot of wills are typed formal legal papers that need be signed by the individual who created the will and at least 2 witnesses that will not benefit from the will. Several states allow wills that are written by hand, “holographic wills”, by the individual who created it and the will doesn’t need witnesses, but they do create more complications after your passing.
You also need to have a “testamentary capacity” when you create your will. In a lot of states, this means that you must be an adult that fully understands the nature of what you’re doing when you create your will – i.e., that you understand that the will you’re creating establishes who will get your assets and property when you pass away.
A Trusts and Estates Lawyer Can Help You
It isn’t required to have a lawyer to create a will, and there are several excellent self-help services that can assist you in creating yourself. Nevertheless if you have a complex situation, don’t want the inconvenience of trying to do it on your own, or simply enjoy the peace of mind that comes in hiring a professional, you should locate a knowledgeable estate planning attorney to assist you.
Ask Your Lawyer These Questions
- Am I required to leave anything to my spouse?
- Can I leave money for my pet using my will?
- Is it acceptable to designate both of my children to be co-executors?
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