Who Should Have a Will?
A will is an important document. A person makes a will to care for their spouse, children, other family, friends and even pets after the will maker is gone. It is a document that almost everyone should have, but many do not. The reasons why people don’t have a current will seem reasonable: There is the matter of time and money. It takes time to catalog assets and decide on beneficiaries, and it incurs an expense seemingly without any current benefit. Apart from those practical concerns, it is difficult to plan something that you won’t be around to see. So while it is understandable why a person doesn’t have a current will, this article is here to tell you why it is a good idea to have one.
The Benefits of Having a Will
As stated earlier, almost everyone should have a will. In this section, we will take a look at some of the benefits of having a will, starting with the most general, and then moving on to more specific benefits.
You work hard, save and make sacrifices to have what you have. It only makes sense that you would want a say in how those assets are used or who they should go to. Most of us would be upset if a court were to take what we have worked for and decide where it goes without taking what we want into consideration. But this is exactly what happens if you pass away without a will. A person who dies without a will is said to have died intestate, and their assets are divided as per state law; no consideration is given to any wishes that person may have expressed previously. This could be especially troublesome to unmarried couples, as the law most likely will not include your partner in any distribution. In a worst case scenario, your partner loses you, and then loses the home the two of you shared. So avoiding the government deciding what happens to the wealth you spent your life accumulating is one major benefit of having a will.
A related benefit of having a will is the ability to choose an executor for your estate. An executor manages your affairs after you are gone, and distributes your assets according to your wishes. Being an executor can be a difficult and stressful job, if you don’t choose who will be best able to do this job, then the court will have to decide. Obviously, you will know better than the court who among your friends and family are best suited to handle this responsibility.
For those it applies to, the next benefit of having a will is the most important. A will allows you to appoint a guardian for your minor children. A guardian is the person named in your will who would take care of the children should you and your spouse die. The appointed guardian should be a person who you trust to raise your children as you would have. While most people choose a sibling, the law does not require that you choose a relative to act as guardian. You may have deeply held beliefs on religion, how to raise children, or any other topic that you feel is a necessary part of raising your child; choosing a guardian in your will helps insure someone will raise your children with these beliefs. Related to this is the ability to create a trust to support your children after you are gone. The guardian you choose uses the assets in the trust to help care for your child while they are minors. Depending on your wishes, the remaining assets in the trust could then go to your children at an age when you feel they will be mature enough to handle the money.
In NY & NJ, you can also use your will to make arrangements to take care of your pets, including naming a guardian and setting up a trust for their care.
This is only a basic rundown of some of the benefits of having a will. If you have any assets, and especially if you have a minor child, you should have a will. In general, an estate plan is a safety net, insurance that, should the worst case scenario happen, your decisions are respected and your loved ones are not left scrambling to pick up the pieces during an especially difficult time. A will is a major part of any estate plan. Speak to an estate planning attorney to go over your specific situation and get guidance on how to best protect your family.