You want to be in charge. You want the people you select to inherit the fruits of your labor. You want the special heirloom to go to a certain person. Have you spelled it out in a will?
Here are 5 Reasons Why You Should.
- What Happens If You Die Without a Will? Dying without a will is called dying “intestate”. You are the testator – the person who can call the shots – if you don’t then you are intestate and that means the court is going to make the decisions for you based on your state’s laws. That may mean that when they follow the law, the person who becomes the beneficiary – the one who receives your assets – may not be the person you would have chosen.
- My Spouse and I Can Have a Joint Will, Right? Wrong! Well, you could but it is not recommended and it may not even be recognized in some states. It is rare that spouses die at the same time. Additionally, each of you has his or her own life. You may have assets that aren’t jointly held or you may want to leave assets to someone from your past, such as a child from another marriage.
- Can I leave Certain Things to Certain People? You want your best friend from your childhood to get the antique doll you played with together. You don’t want your sister to take the necklace your Mom gave you; you want it to go to your daughter. You can make those bequests and more. Be specific in your will so your wishes are followed.
- Can Someone Contest my Will? Contesting is a challenge to the legal validity of a will. Your state laws will apply, but, in some cases, a spouse, ex-spouse or child can try to contest a will that goes against local probate laws. The best defense is a good offense. Only the validity of the will can be contested through avenues like whether or not the deceased was competent or if there was coercion or fraud. A clearly drafted, legal will should hold up against a challenge.
- Who Should be My Executor? The choice is yours. It could be your spouse (if he or she is still alive), a child or a trusted friend. If you feel you need the extra help because your affairs are complicated, you can also name an attorney or a financial advisor.
Another question that comes up frequently is do you have to have a lawyer prepare your will? The answer is no. You could even write in on a napkin or use an online program – if it meets your state’s legal requirements. However, an experienced family law lawyer is going to know the laws of your state and better able to protect your assets with strategies like living trusts. A family law attorney may be well worth his or her fees!