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Estate Planning 101: Don’t Neglect to Write a Will

None of us knows what life has in store, and so it is important to be prepared for unforeseen circumstances by carefully preparing a comprehensive estate plan. Here, the estate planning attorneys at Rodier Family Law explain the importance of writing a will before you pass away, in order to protect your family and loved ones.

A Last Will and Testament is a fundamental document in one’s estate plan, often outlining many directives should the testator (the person about whom the document is written) pass away. Yet, nearly 55% of American adults do not have a will at all. The reasoning for this is multidimensional; many people often cite cost and time as the two main deterring factors for creating a will, while the idea of choosing heirs and beneficiaries, and planning for life after death also makes most people uncomfortable.

While the process might make you feel a bit uneasy, neglecting to write a will ultimately places your loved ones at a disadvantage. When a person dies without a will, a court will preside over the status of their possessions and assets. This process is often long and arduous, taking a heavy toll on the friends and family of the deceased. However, if a person has a will in place, most of the overwhelming aspects of the process can be avoided. If you do not plan to undertake any other estate planning activities to protect your property and assets when you pass, it is in the best interest of those you love and care for to create a will in order to preserve your legacy.

Your Last Will and Testament has a few vital components, but the most significant is that a will allows you to decide who will gain ownership of your property, possession and assets after you pass. Through this document, you are able to distribute these items in any way that you choose. Without a will, state laws dictate how and to whom your possessions, assets and property are divided—typically distributing them among your closest living relatives. The issue then, is how can a court know who you consider your “closest” living relative?

Naturally, it cannot. Not in the same way you would be able to. If you have been estranged from your siblings for years, but they are the only direct blood relatives to you, your possessions, assets and property will go to them. Thus, if you would like to have input in who will received your things when you pass away, or how your money will be divided, you will need to create a will.

If you have children, one of the best ways to ensure that they are taken care of if you pass away, is to create a will. A will is one of the only legal estate planning documents that provides you with the opportunity to designate a legal guardian. In doing so, you can reduce the risk of a court stepping in and deciding who should care for your children. Similarly, if you have pets, this document provides you with an opportunity to name someone who you trust to care for them. If you fail to do so—and your loved ones do not take it upon themselves to decide where your pets will live—they may be sent to a local animal shelter until otherwise adopted.

Many individuals do not believe that a will is needed or even the right option for that. This might be because a person does not have children, property or substantial assets and possessions. But it is important to understand that without a will, you relinquish all deciding power that you have to state laws and probate courts. It may be prudent for you to write a will, even if you feel that what you have is small, in order to ensure that your wishes are represented after your passing.

If you are unsure about whether you should establish a will, or have questions about wills and other estate planning measures, contact the attorneys at Rodier Family Law. We are experienced in drafting wills, advanced medical directives and powers of attorney, ensuring that your family’s well-being is secured.