A will is an important part of your financial future – especially if you have children or other dependents.
Why everyone needs a will
A will allows you to specify how you want your property to be distributed upon your death. You should name someone you trust to act as your executor. Your executor’s job is to manage your assets, pay your final bills and distribute your assets. A will also gives you the power to name a guardian to care for your minor child or disabled adult children and a custodian for their property. You can have peace of mind knowing your loved ones and assets will be handled the way you want when you’re gone.
Having a will may not avoid probate, but it can make the process easier by giving the court your directions on how you want your assets distributed once your final debts and expenses are paid. Your will only controls the assets held solely in your name. It does not control assets that are held jointly. Those will go to your spouse or another joint owner.
What a will can’t do
A will also doesn't control assets with beneficiaries like your IRA, retirement benefits or life insurance policies. It’s important to make sure you coordinate the information so you don’t unintentionally disinherit a loved one! Naming only one of your children as a joint owner on your accounts to make it easier for you may also mean that upon your death your other children won’t get any of those funds — even if your will states that everyone should get an equal share.
What happens if I don’t have a will?
If you die without a will, the state will decide how your estate is settled. This means your assets may not end up where you’d want them to go. While the state might assume you’d want your assets to be shared between your spouse and children, this may not be the case. Also, the court will name someone (who may not be the person you want or trust) to serve as the administrator of your estate. The administrator appointed by the court has the same authority and duties as the executor.
It is important to review your will every two years or anytime a significant event occurs in your life like marriage, divorce, a new baby or if you move out of state. This ensures your will still says what you want it to say.
The advice provided is for informational purposes only. Contact an estate attorney for additional guidance.