Having a will is one of the best ways to protect your family.
When someone dies without having written a will, the government decides how that person's estate will be split up. If that person had minor children, the government also decides who will be taking care of them without any say from the deceased person. Worse yet, many families are split apart fighting over their loved one's estate and eat up all of the estate in court fees while they do it.
Proper estate planning can help to avoid a fiasco after you pass away. It also allows you to say where or how you want to be buried, or any other wishes you might have. Perhaps most importantly, it gives you the power to say who will care for your children in the event that you can't be there to do it yourself.
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Although all states have laws that dictate what to do with any property after a person passes away, having a will can eliminate expensive legal fees, probate costs, and the stress that can be imposed on loved ones attempting to sort out a decedent's affairs. Since most Americans are unfamiliar with the laws of testate succession, it is very possible and common for a decedent's estate to be distributed in a manner that they would never have wanted. If you want to eliminate any such uncertainty, if you simply want to make sure that the government does not mandate how your estate will be distributed, or if you want to make sure that someone receives something that they would not have otherwise received, then writing your will is probably a good idea.
After you pass away, your estate must go through probate. Probate basically means that your estate is administered through the court system. If you've written down what you want to have happen to your estate in a will, the process will go significantly smoother, there will be less time spent in court, and consequently there will be fewer probate fees. This means that your heirs will get more of your estate (because the court fees won't eat up all of your assets) and it will take less time for your heirs to get your property. If you pass away without a will, your estate will very likely spent a great deal more time in the court system.
Absolutely. In fact if you don't designate who will look after your children, the court will choose a guardian for you. When choosing someone to look after your children, you should make sure that the designated person knows that you are listing them in your will and what would be expected of them if they became a guardian of your children.
No. Most states allow you to attach a “self-proving affidavit” to your will. The self-proving affidavit is notarized. It helps to eliminate any dispute about whether or not you signed the will and simplifies the process required to carry out a will.
No. A judge can overrule what you have said in your will, however, this is very unlikely. Generally judges will attempt to follow your wishes unless they involve something illegal or unconscionable. For example, if John says that he wants to leave his car to Peter, but John never owned the car in the first place, the car will instead be returned to its rightful owner.
Legally speaking, pets are considered property. Since wills allow for the transfer of property, anyone can list what they want to have happen to their pets in a will. Many wills actually contain separate provisions that deal specifically with pets.
Yes. Chances are you may have a family heirloom or some item that could cause a family dispute. Also, wills allow you to do more than simply leave property to other people. With a will you can appoint a guardian for your children, dictate how you would like to be buried, or declare any other wishes you intend to relay to your family.
Yes. Your living trust typically only covers certain assets and rarely deals with your entire estate. As such, there are numerous items that you own that are not going to be covered by the trust. A will deals with all of those items that the trust doesn't pick up. Most people that choose to have living trusts also have wills.
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