The facts speak for themselves. It is estimated that over half Americans don’t have a will. Another survey estimates that over 70% don’t have a will that is up-to-date. If you’re thinking you don’t need one, here are 5 things that can happen if you don’t have a will.
1. There is Likely to be Fighting. It may seem that everyone will get what they should and your State will divide your assets in a sensible and fair way. It may not turn out that way. For example, if you just loaned a very significant amount of money to just one of your 3 children, your estate is reduced by that loan. But, unless it’s a legal, in-writing loan, there’s no way to get that money repaid to the estate. Plus, that child will get the same, full share as the other 2 children. Could that lead to some arguments? Very likely. That’s just one example of how not clarifying your wishes can lead to family disputes – and, unfortunately, some families never fully recover from these disputes.
2. You Haven’t Specified Special Circumstances. Maybe you’re helping a grandchild by paying their college tuition. Maybe you want to provide for the care of a beloved pet. Maybe you promised an expensive piece of jewelry to your niece. No one knows. The inheritance will follow the rules of the State. No special requests will be considered – no matter how important they were to you. The only way you can make sure your wishes are followed – that you continue to pay for that college tuition or the niece gets the ring – is my making sure you have your wishes specified in a legal will.
3. The Wrong Person May Inherit. Here is one example. You’ve entered a second marriage. You and your new spouse have agreed that the children each of you have from previous marriages will inherit your portion of the estate. Oops! No will? The State law could give your entire estate to the new wife if that’s the way their inheritance laws are written. The only way you can name who will inherit what is by having a will.
4. Sentiment Doesn’t Play a Role. The State doesn’t care. You want your daughter to have the expensive bracelet that’s was part of your wife’s family for generations. But, what about the value? It doesn’t just have sentimental value – it has monetary value, too. So, is your daughter’s share of the estate reduced by the value of the bracelet? Are there other items that you want to leave to your other children to offset the value of the bracelet? The State doesn’t deal in sentimentality; it deals in facts and its decision may not be the one you want.
5. It’s Going to be More Time Consuming and, Possibly, More Expensive. Do your heirs know exactly what you’re worth – or where to find the assets? Without a will, your heirs will have to go through filing court documents and probate. It’s going to cost both time and money – and stress! A will simplifies the distribution of your assets, saves probate and saves money. Most of all it makes losing you a bit easier for your loved ones.
Are you one of the majority who hasn’t taken the time to make a legal will? If you are, don’t keep putting it off. Talk to a family law attorney. The process won’t be that difficult or that expensive. A family law attorney is an experienced lawyer who will help you define your wishes in a legal document. And, if you have a will, but it’s out of date, that family lawyer can help you get your document up to date to reflect your current circumstances. You will have the peace of mind of knowing that your assets will be divided according to your wishes and that you have made the process of settling your estate easier for your loved ones.