For many people, the topic of creating a will is a sensitive one. But, it can help you and your family protect what matters most after you have passed away. Consider these four important reasons for making a will:
1. You Decide Who Executes Your Estate
Creating a will and appointing a trusted executor of your choice helps ensure your estate is managed according to your wishes. It may also help minimize court involvement, says the American Bar Association (ABA). If you pass away without a will (i.e., dying “intestate”), your state will determine how to split up your estate, according to Thomson Reuters’ FindLaw (FindLaw). This includes distributing your possessions and property and appointing a guardian for any minor children.
FindLaw says the executor of a will can be any trusted person, such as a close friend or family member. But, don’t forget to check that your appointed executor is willing and able to serve in that capacity. They are typically responsible for ensuring all your affairs are in order and executed to your wishes, are responsible for paying off bills and closing any accounts, according to FindLaw. Depending on the size and complexity of your estate, you may want to appoint a lawyer or financial professional who can help manage complex finances or inheritance issues.
2. You Decide Who Inherits Your Estate
A will makes clear which persons or organizations (such as charities or universities) receive all or part of your property when you die, says ABA. This includes homes, vehicles, financial assets and any other personal property you wish to pass on.
You should also keep in mind that some states have community property laws governing spousal inheritance. In these states, a surviving spouse would be entitled to a certain amount of your estate no matter how much you specifically designate in your will, according to ABA. Remember to consult with a knowledgeable professional as part of your estate planning to help you understand any specific laws in your state.
3. You Decide Who Doesn’t Inherit Your Estate
A will can also be used to disinherit someone who may otherwise be entitled to receive a portion of your estate, says FindLaw. If you don’t have a will, all or parts of your estate may end up in the hands of someone you intended to disinherit (such as a relative with whom you’ve fallen out of touch). When creating a will, remember to check your state’s laws to understand who may be legally entitled to a portion of your estate.
The Balance recommends reviewing your will from time to time and making updates when you experience life changes (such as after the birth of a child). You can use these opportunities to specify who should receive specific assets based on your new circumstances.