Why is it Important to Have A Will?
Planning for the Future
The writing of someone’s last will and testament is extremely important because anything can happen in the blink of an eye. If worse came to worse, one would want to make sure that all of their assets were going to the family members, friends, and charities of their choice. But, wills do not only cover the matters of money, it also deals with property, children under the age of 18, and even leftover debts. But first, what is a last will and testament? A will is a legally binding document that is recognized by the state’s government that is used in dividing up assets of their estate to their loved ones. As mentioned before, these “assets” include property, the guardianship of children under 18, trusts, and insurance policies. For this document to be legally binding, the person in question has to be of sound mind at the time the will has been written. This is known as testamentary capacity. Also, when writing a last will and testament, for it to be legally binding, two witnesses need to be present, and in some states you will need three. And the two witnesses that are present cannot be a beneficiary of the will in question.
In the case that someone did not write a will before an untimely death, the state has a way of dividing up assets afterwards. In situations such as these, assets will first be divided through your immediate family, which includes your spouse, children and parents. If these three groups do not apply, then assets will be divided through extended family, such as grandparents, siblings and nieces/nephews. But, if you live in a “community property state”, which includes Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In these states, property that was purchased during a marriage would automatically be transferred to the non-deceased spouse. This would also include the transfer of debts, if there are any. If you were to die without a will, the money from, say a lawsuit, could be awarded to a family member you may not have a good relationship with, and therefore friends and family members you were actually close with would then receive little to nothing. In the case of minor children, the guardians need to be named in the will. If this does not happen, then your children’s guardian would be chosen by the state—they could either be sent to immediate family or a state-appointed guardian. This would be in the case of single-parent households or if both parents happened to be deceased.
A will is all about having a plan if the unexpected were to happen. There are many positive reason to have a constantly updated last will and testament. One major positive of having a will would be the minimization of estate taxes. The amount of money that you choose to give charities and your family after death will minimize the amount you have to pay in estate taxes. If someone makes a donation up to $13,000, this would then be excluded from estate taxes, which could then increase the overall value of the estate, maximizing the amount to go to heirs/beneficiaries. Also, most people may not know this, but a will can be used to disinherit people from your assets. For example, if you were about to separate from your spouse and something were to happen, you could instead give all of the property and/or money to your children instead.
Another positive of having a will is that the “probate period” will be much shorter, in comparison if you were to die without a will. The probate period includes all of the legal issues that could arise that is related to the collection, management, and distribution of the estate in question. This process is under a court’s order and their job is to see what goes to who and where. The probate period does not apply to everything in the will. The items that are excluded from the probate period are life-insurance policies, trusts, [some] property in the cases of a community property state, and payable-on-death accounts. A will also must name an executor. The responsibilities of the executor include the payment of bills, cancelling credit cards and notifying the bank, while also cancelling other contracts such as cable, internet, and cellphone. The executor does not always have to be a family member, just someone that you can trust and that is responsible.
The great thing about having a will is that it can be changed and adjusted at anytime. As long as it is done in a legal manner, as in having witnesses present and done with a lawyer, it is legally binding. But, once again, you need to be of sound mind when conducting adjustments. Otherwise, the new adjustment could be void and therefore the last valid adjustment to the will would be legally binding. Some states do allow hand-written wills, but this could prolong the probate period because determining the authenticity would take much longer. Honestly, anything can happen in the blink of an eye, so it is important to be “somewhat” prepared in the event of an awful tragedy.