Everyone needs a will, but especially those who fall in one of the following categories:
If you have minor children, you need a will. A will is the only document that lets you name the individuals who will be responsible for raising your children if you die. You cannot write a letter or a text or leave a video that instructs who should take care of your children and how. Without a will, a Judge makes that decision, and the Judge might appoint someone whom you would rather not raise your children, such as in-laws or family members whose parenting skills you disapprove of. In a will, you get to decide who is best fit to raise your kids.
Wills also let you create future trusts, so that you can control when and how much of your assets your children inherit. Without a future trust, your children would receive their entire inheritance all at once upon your death. If they are under 18, the inheritance will be given to their custodian or guardian for safe keeping until the kids reach 18. At that time, your children will be free to spend the money as they see fit. You might be ok with that if your net worth is under $250,000 and you have several kids, but if you own substantially more, you may want to spread out the payments over several years to insure that the money is wisely spent. You might even want that money to be invested and grown, so that your kids could receive more than you left them when you died. You can do all that with a future trust that’s created within a will.
People who don’t get along with family members
If you die without a will, your property will be given to the following individuals in the following order:
Your aunts and uncles
The way this works is if you have a spouse, they inherit (almost) everything. If you have no spouse, then your kids inherit all. If you have no kids, then your parents inherit. If your parents are not alive when you die, then your siblings inherit. If you’re the only child when you die, then your grandparents inherit, and so on.
Thus, if you are an unmarried, childless individual who owns property but doesn’t get along with your parents or siblings, then you need a will. In a will, you get to decide who will inherit and how much. You won’t be required to leave your property to your parents or your siblings or your aunts or your cousins. You can leave your property to a close friend or a long time partner. In a will, you can even exclude certain individuals to make it clear that you really don’t want someone to inherit, such as your brother Billy who bullied you all your life. A lot of people grow up in an abusive or dysfunctional families. Just because you were raised in that environment doesn’t mean you must die in that environment as well.
People who are in a long-term dating relationship
Unlike married couples, who can automatically inherit from one another without a will, a dating couple cannot do that. If you want to leave property to your significant other, you need a will. You can certainly name your partner as a beneficiary on your financial accounts that can be designated as payable on death, but tangible property such as a home, car, boat, personal belongings—all require you to sign a will in order to transfer ownership from yourself to your partner. You cannot just leave a letter or a list that dictates who should inherit what. That list or letter isn’t enforceable, so if you don’t sign a will, your parents or siblings who will end up inheriting all of your property can chose to disregard your wishes and give nothing to your partner.
People who don’t have family members
If you don’t have any family members at all: no living spouse, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins, then everything you own will go to the state. That’s right. The state that has been taxing you all your life will also get to keep everything in the end if you don’t have a will. You might not own a lot, but for the principal of it, you may want to leave what little you own to a charity or a friend or even a stranger rather than letting the state rob you of your last penny after you’re gone.
Are you in one of these categories? Would you like to set up a will? Send us an email or schedule a call to learn more.