Why create a will?
Perhaps the first question should be, “What does a will do?” Your will determines how any property you own at death will be distributed to your heirs – provided you have not made other arrangements.
What other arrangements would you have made? In some cases, you bought property that the deed states who gets it at death. For example, the deed to your home probably lists you and your spouse as joint tenant with right of survivorship – which simply means that if either of you die, the survivor owns it all. Ownership transferred by deed is not affected by the will. Contracts you have made usually state who the subsequent owner will be if the owner dies. An example of this type of contract is a life insurance policy. Also, a business owner may have agreed to a “Buy and Sell Agreement” with a partner or co-owner. If the contract provides for the successor owner, then it is not affected by the will.
Your will expresses how you want your remaining property to pass. But did you know that if you have not written a will, your state government has done it for you? If you die without a valid will, your assets will pass to your heirs according to state law. Each state writes its own intestacy laws that serve as a “generic will” for its residents. Without even knowing what the state will (intestacy law) says, you probably find it offensive to think the state will decide who gets your properties. Creating your own will allows you to express how you want your remaining properties to pass.
Lawmakers design the intestacy laws based on what they think you would want to happen. These laws vary from state to state.
Usually, the distributions occur as follows:
- If your spouse survives you, and you have no children, your spouse inherits the estate. However, in some states, your parents and your spouse split the estate or any real estate.
- If your spouse and children survive you, each inherits a portion of the estate, even if the children are minors.
- If only your children survive you, they inherit the estate, and if they are minors, the court appoints a guardian for them.
- If you have no surviving spouse or descendants, your parents inherit the estate. If your parents are deceased, your siblings inherit the estate. If you have no surviving siblings, your next of kin inherits the estate.
- If you have no next of kin, your state of residence takes over possession of your estate.
Creating a will allows you to express how you want your probate property to pass. Probate property consists of any assets not contractually promised or jointly owned.
Advantages of a Will:
- You choose who gets your remaining property.
- You designate an executor of your choice to carry out your intentions.
- You can design your will so that you actually reduce estate taxes.
- You can appoint a trustee and/or guardian to manage your assets for your minor children.
- You can amend or revoke the will at any time.
Why create a will? A will allows you to distribute the property you worked a lifetime to accumulate to whomever you choose. A will must meet certain requirements to be valid in your state. Always seek legal advice in creating or changing your will. To be sure your will works as you intend, always consult your legal counsel before signing any contracts or deeds, as they can undermine or contradict your will.
Why create a will? It’s as simple as making distributions at death your way, or their way.