A will can determine an individual’s wishes for how their estate will be managed after death. Although it is not legally required to have a will, it is still highly recommended. Here are three reasons why having a will is essential for estates.
Avoid Intestate Succession Laws
Intestate succession laws are the default rules that deterine how property will be distributed if an individual dies without a valid will. In most states, these laws dictate that the deceased person’s assets will go to their spouse and children. However, many prefer their assets to other individuals, such as close friends or charity organizations. Having a will can ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes and not the state’s intestacy laws. Otherwise, your loved ones may end up fighting over your estate, which can cause lasting damage to relationships. To ensure that your will isn’t challenged inappropriately, consider hiring an experienced probate attorney to protect your will. These attorneys can help write a legally sound document that will be difficult to challenge.
Appoint a Guardian for Your Children
If you have minor children, it is essential to appoint a guardian in your will. This way, you can rest assured knowing that your children will be taken care of by an individual (or individuals) of your choosing if something happens to you. Without a will, the court will seek a capable guardian for your children.
Make the Probate Process Easier
The probate process is the legal process used to validate a will and carry out an individual’s wishes regarding their estate. For example, if you die without a will, your loved ones will have to undergo the intestate succession process, which can be lengthy and expensive. However, if you have a valid will, the probate process is typically much easier and faster for your loved ones to deal with. Additionally, with a will in place, you can designate an executor—the person responsible for carrying out your wishes—which can make things even simpler for your loved ones during this difficult time.
Overall, it is clear that there are many reasons why having a will is essential for estates—even though it is not legally required in most cases. If you do not have a will in place, now is the time to create one so that your assets can be distributed according to your wishes and your loved ones can avoid going through the intestate succession process. However, what happens if you don’t have a will?
What Happens if You Die Without a Will?
If you die without a will—or if your will is deemed invalid by the court—you die intestate. This means that the state will have a say in how to distribute your assets. An intestate estate is distributed among your closest relatives, starting with your spouse and children.
If you are unmarried or childless, your parents will inherit your estate. If your parents are deceased, your brothers and sisters (or their descendants) will inherit from your estate. The further removed from you a relative is, the less likely they are to inherit anything from your estate. In some cases, if there are no living relatives who can inherit from you, your entire estate may go to the state where you resided at the time of death. This is the simplest way to put it, but interstate laws can differ. There are two main types of it:
This law applies in nine states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In these states, any property acquired during a marriage is considered to be owned equally by both spouses. Therefore, in this case, the surviving spouse would generally inherit all or part of the deceased spouse’s estate.
Common Law Property
This type of law applies to the other 41 states. Generally, in these states, unless a couple has specified otherwise (for example, through a prenuptial agreement), any property acquired during the marriage is considered community property and would be shared equally by both spouses. If the deceased spouse has no surviving family members who can inherit their estate, the state may take it.
If you fail to leave a will, you are essentially leaving the decision about who inherits your estate up to the state. However, this may not be what you had in mind, so it is essential to create a legally sound will and update it regularly if any significant life changes occur—such as getting married or divorced, having children, changing your will, or moving to a new state.
In conclusion, having a will is essential for distributing your assets how you see fit. Without one, you leave it up to the state to determine who should inherit what when you die—which may not be optimal for your loved ones. Creating a valid and up-to-date will can help ensure that your estate is distributed as efficiently and smoothly as possible.