Most of us want our wishes carried out after we pass away. Having a will is easy and ensures your property goes to the people you want. Will’s are legal documents that tells your loved ones how you want your assets distributed after you pass. But don’t worry, your wishes can stay private until after your passing.
Every adult— whether they are well off or not—should have a will. Yet more than half of all Americans pass away without one. Recent national estimates report that almost 70% of American adults don’t have a will. The reason for this is not surprising. Most believe they don’t have enough assets or that creating a will may be too costly. Still others simply don’t want to think about their own passing. However, this lack of planning is short sighted. A will is one of the greatest gifts you can leave your loved ones. They will appreciate the time you spent getting everything in order.
Creating a will can also be simple and affordable and can sometimes be completed without the help of an attorney. Here’s a quick look at the process of creating a will and what will happen if you pass without one.
Alright, I Want to Create a Will…What Now?
Before you start your will, here are a few things to consider and include:
Statement of Last Will and Testament: Your will needs to state you’re sound of mind and that you want this document to be your last will and testament. Additionally, the will needs to state it overrules any prior wills.
Executor: The executor is the individual who oversees the allocation of your assets after you pass. If you pass away without a will, the court will designate someone to carry out the duties of an executor. Having a will in place means you decide who you trust to handle your final affairs when you’re gone.
Minor children: If you have minor children, a will allows you to designate a guardian to care for them. In Arizona, you must name permanent guardians in a will. Without a will, a judge decides who should be guardian of your children, and it may not be your first choice.
Personal Effects: If you want specific items to go to specific individuals it must be detailed in your will. For example, you may want the family photo albums to go to a dependable uncle or an antique pearl necklace to be handed down to your cousin. If you pass without a will or fail to identify specific items, the wrong people may get your property.
Pets: They are often loved as trusted family members. Unfortunately, the law views them as personal property. This is why you should designate a caretaker and consider leaving money for your pet’s guardian to provide for their future care.
Debts and Taxes: Your will may specify how to handle your debts and any taxes owed. Additionally, you should leave contact information for assets like an IRA, insurance policies, or employer retirement plans.
After Your Death
The court supervises the distribution of your property in a process known as probate. Your estate will go through the probate process even if you have a will or not (a trust is one way to avoid probate). A will just simplifies the process. Once the will is validated by the court, the deceased’s assets are gathered, and any debts and/or taxes are paid. Any leftover money is then distributed according to the will or at the direction of the court if there is no will. This process is significantly more complicated and costly if there is no will in place. Taking the time to put a plan in place today will save your loved ones time, money, and stress in the future.
Having a will not only gives clear direction for your loved ones after your passing, but it additionally allows you to breathe easy, with the knowledge that your wishes will be fulfilled. The peace of mind you get will be worth any cost or effort involved in creating a will. At the end of the day, we just want to take care of our loved ones. Creating a will is just one way to ensure they’re cared for even when you are gone.
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