5 Reasons Why You Should Go About Making A Will Before The Government Intrudes
According to a recent survey by Forbes, more than 50% of Americans haven’t gone around making a will. This number also tracks closely to age and socioeconomic status—older and wealthier people are more likely to have wills.
But why should you have a will? What do wealthier and older people know that makes them much more likely to create a will? Why should YOU have a will, even if you’re neither wealthy nor older? And how does the government’s interference fit into all this?
Before we venture into that any further, let’s look into some of the reasons why most Americans aren’t making a will –
- “I need to focus on the essentials, like buying groceries and paying bills!“You probably do groceries and pay bills to keep your family well-provided for and healthy. Having a will is another way to do this! Having a will means that you can specify in what ways your family is provided for, and start setting aside money for end-of-life costs. Estate planning is essential, and can take less time than you think!
- “I don’t have assets, I don’t need a will.”It is likely that you have more assets than you think! Consider your 401k, your life insurance policies, your car, and your house, as well as any valuables or family heirlooms. Do you know where those are going after you pass on? Having a will is a great way to make your wishes known. Not only that but planning towards your end-of-life can mean more than just writing a will.
“It is too complicated to deal with right now.”
You can have a short will written in less than an hour, using our checklist above, or you can have a meeting with a lawyer, where for a small fee, they’ll help you write a will. Remember that in either case, going in prepared is important. While it may seem daunting to think about all your assets and liabilities, you probably have all the information you need at your fingertips… more so if you use Jazmine!
“Meeting with a lawyer is too expensive!”
You actually don’t need a lawyer in order to craft your will! You can do it on your own, following either the checklist above, or instructions found on a website like LegalZoom or NoLo. This means making a will can be totally free! A note that if you are thinking that you need more than just a straightforward will, you should meet with a lawyer. Money spent on protecting your assets and your family is money that pays for itself though!
“My spouse and my children will automatically get all my assets anyways, why should I write a will?”
This is probably true but depends greatly on the laws in your state. Having a will that clearly lays out the division of your assets can also help to prevent fighting in your family, and will allow you to consult family members about their own wishes.
You may not know it, but, you have a default will. It’s called the State’s “Intestate law” or “Law of descent and distribution,” and it was likely drafted by the lawmakers in the state where you live.
Intestate Succession Laws
The Intestate Laws (i.e. your default will) differ from state to state.
In most states, if you were married with kids, your surviving spouse and children will inherit your assets. In some states, if you don’t have children, your spouse; or even your parents; will inherit your assets, possibly leaving your spouse to fend for him or herself.
Here are two examples of Intestate succession laws from New York and North Carolina:
New York State’s Intestate Succession Laws
North Carolina’s Intestate Succession Laws (from Nolo.com)
The legal version can be found here: http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/gascripts/statutes/StatutesTOC.pl?Chapter=0029
If you die without a valid will (“intestate”), the State’s laws go into effect. It simply means that if you die without making a will, the state takes the responsibility to distribute your assets in a manner they seem fit and the court’s decision may not go according to your wishes.
5 Reasons How Making a Will Will Benefit You And Your Family
1) Chooses how you want your children to be raised
Only 14% of those under 30 have a will, but many people have children at that age. While thinking about what will happen to your children after you pass away is extremely difficult, you want to make sure that the person that takes care of your children is someone you trust deeply. You also want to make sure that this person is able to take care of your kids for their entire childhoods. For example, while you or your spouse’s parents may gain custody of the children, their age may make them unsuitable guardians in the long-term.
If you have minor children, the State’s Probate Court Judge will choose their guardians. The judge will have no guidance from you and may choose the wrong person to care for your children. Writing a will as soon as you are expecting a child is critical for this reason.
2) Avoid a lengthy probate
When you die without a will, your estate is processed by your State’s Probate or Surrogate Court. The Probate court will appoint an administrator, most likely a family member or friend. Regardless of your level of wealth, someone has to settle your estate. This means they are responsible for using any assets to pay your final bills, close your accounts, negotiate with creditors, file a final tax return, sell your house and settle your estate.
The average time to settle an estate in New York State is around two years! It’s similar in other states. You may be six feet under, but the person who is left to take care of your mess is probably not all that happy with you!
Save your family and friends a lot of time and stress by creating a will and establishing your desires and preferences ahead of time.
3) Your Assets, Your Choice
By drafting a will, you also get the opportunity to make sure your loved ones are taken care of as you intended to, instead of letting a Judge who knows nothing about you or your family make decisions on your behalf.
4) Pass along heirlooms and keepsakes with zero interference
Not everything is about your cold, hard assets. Your will is also an opportunity to pass along messages to your family and loved, ones, to pass along important family treasures, and to make people feel cared for. Your family will miss you, and being able to leave behind kind words is an asset beyond measure.
5) And, finally, you are helping close the State’s Budget Gap
If you die without a will, and no one claims your assets, your money or insurance payouts will eventually end up in the State’s coffers, closing the State’s budget gaps! These funds are called “Unclaimed”. You can read more about it here.
As you can see, the intestate laws vary greatly from state to state, and you should draft a will at the very minimum so you know that your assets are distributed the way you would like after your death, and to avoid causing further pain to your family!
P.S. For other states: Search Nolo.com for Intestacy Laws for “Your State” or Google Intestacy Laws for “Your State”.