Regardless of your age, marital status, or financial circumstances, having a Last Will & Testament is important. There are at least five reasons why:
1) YOU choose who will inherit your assets.
A Will allows you to decide who will inherit from your estate and in what amounts. This is the most obvious and important reason you need a Will. Even if you are single or do not have significant assets, you most likely own something in your name alone that will need to be distributed upon your death. Without a Will, the State, through the laws of intestacy, will decide who inherits your assets and how much they will receive based on their relationship to you. Unfortunately, the State does not know your relationship with your parents, siblings, etc. In order to ensure that your wishes for your assets are carried out, you need a Will.
2) YOU choose who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes.
Choosing your personal representative, is an important decision. A personal representative is responsible to collect all of your assets, pay any debts or expenses of the estate, and distribute the remaining funds according to your wishes. Although this person is under an obligation (called a fiduciary duty) to carry out your wishes as they are stated in your Will, it is still important to choose someone you trust. The State does not know your relationship with your family. Therefore, the person who may have the legal right to serve as your personal representative if you don’t have a Will, may not be a person you trust.
3) YOU choose the guardian for your minor children.
Anyone who is the parent of a minor child, or is expecting a child in the near future, should absolutely have a Will prepared. No one wants to think about their possible demise; however, it is important to consider who will be responsible for your children should something unexpected happen to both you and your child’s other parent. Having a Will allows you to specifically designate a guardian to care for your minor children.
4) YOU choose the age when beneficiaries receive their inheritance and choose who will be in charge of the funds until then.
No matter the size of your estate, it is critical to consider the age at which you want your beneficiaries to inherit your assets. Even though technically an adult at the age of eighteen (18), a lot of parents do not feel an eighteen year old should have complete access to their inheritance. A Will allows you to designate when your children, or other beneficiaries, can receive some or all of their inheritance. A Will also gives you the power to choose the person who will be in charge of managing your beneficiary’s inheritance until they reach the age for distribution. Like a personal representative, a trustee has an obligation to carry out your wishes and act in the best interests of your beneficiaries. Knowing that this person could be in charge of your children’s funds for a number of years, it is important that you choose someone you trust.
5) YOU can choose to eliminate the requirement that your Executor post a Bond and thus leave more money in your Estate.
If a person dies without a Will, the Administrator of an estate in required to post a Bond as long as the estate remains open. A Bond, similar to an insurance policy, is posted for the approximate value of your estate. Unfortunately, like an insurance policy, a premium must be paid for the Bond. The Bond must be renewed, and paid for, on an annual basis. This is an additional expense of administration, which will reduce the size of your estate to be distributed to your beneficiaries.
These are just five of the reasons to have a Will. There are zero reasons not to have a Will.