Top 10 Reasons to have a WILL



Seventy percent (70%) of Americans die without a Will.  Understandably, losing a loved one causes great pain to a family.  If you die without a Will, however, it may also cause your family many unnecessary headaches.  A Will is a written document that outlines your intentions regarding the care and disposition of your home, money and other assets (called your estate), as well as, the care of your family upon your death.  Without a Will, the important decisions regarding your assets and loved ones are left to the state.  Every adult should have a Will and below are the top ten reasons why.


            1.           You decide how your property will be distributed.  State law deals uniformly with all instances of death without a Will.  Your money and possessions will be distributed according to a formula fixed by law, which means that your spouse may have to share assets with other family members whom you may not have named in a Will.  Young adults may have immediate access to funds that would be better held in trust.  Neither you nor your family will have control over the disposition of your assets.

              2.           You decide who takes care of your minor children.  Dying without a Will could lead to your minor children being placed in the care of a guardian appointed by the Court, not necessarily the person that you would have chosen to raise them.   A guardianship contest, upsetting to your family, can be avoided.

              3.           You decide who administers your estate.  Through your Will, you appoint an individual who handles all of your assets and affairs after your death.   Without a Will, the state decides who will administer your affairs and distribute your assets.

              4.           A Will is revocable.  In most states, a Will is not filed (or probated) until after a person dies.  Consequently, you can change or update your Will at any time throughout your life.  Your Will should be updated each time your life situation changes.  For example, the birth or death of a beneficiary, a marriage or divorce, a change in the estate or tax laws, or an increase in the value of your assets.

              5.           You may be able to legally avoid federal estate taxes.  Federal estate tax rates range from thirty-seven percent (37%) to fifty-five percent (55%).  If federal estate taxes are applicable to your situation, a Will or other estate planning tools may be available to legally avoid or reduce this tax.   This can result in substantial savings to your beneficiaries.  Furthermore, in a Will, you can decide how the burden for estate taxes should be allocated.

              6.           You can distribute assets acquired in the future.  A Will permits you to distribute all of the assets owned at the time of your death, including those acquired after the making of the Will.  This is accomplished through a residuary clause contained within the Will.

              7.           A Will avoids extra costs and confusion.  A Will avoids the extra costs and confusion that may result if you die without a Will and have to proceed under state intestate laws.

              8.           You can make specific gifts.  In a Will, you can distribute specific items of personal property to specific individuals or to charity.   You can designate the party to receive your grandmother’s diamond ring or a favorite piece of artwork.  This avoids arguments among surviving heirs about what you intended.   Also, you can designate how taxes will be paid with respect to these items.

              9.           You can disinherit individuals.  In a Will you can disinherit an individual otherwise entitled to receive a distribution of your assets under state law.  This permits you to leave certain parties out of your Will.  Note, however, that in most states a spouse cannot be completely disinherited without consent.

              10.         You can distribute property disproportionately.  In a Will, you can distribute property disproportionately to take care of a loved one with special needs or to allocate assets among your family members as you deem appropriate.  Under state law, no considerations are made for the special needs of any individual or family.