A will is something many of us know we should have, but we put it off anyway. Writing a will feels like an overwhelming task in many ways, but it shouldn’t. When you understand the purpose of a will and learn about your options for creating one—some of which you can do yourself for free!—it becomes less intimidating. The Cronin Law Firm is happy to provide this information for anyone wondering if they need a will and looking for information on how to create one.
Why Is Creating a Will Such a Scary Thought?
According to a recent study, 78 percent of people aged 23-39, 64 percent of people aged 40-55, and 40 percent of people over 55 do not have a will. Most people avoid writing a will because it feels like an overwhelming task. Not only is it difficult to confront the fact that you won’t be around forever, but it is hard to find the time to sit down and think about everything that needs to go into the will. However, it’s important to realize that without a will, you have no say in what happens to your estate when you die and no control over who gets what. This is why we believe everyone should have a will, no matter how young you are or how small your estate is.
A Will Does Not Have to Be Complicated or Expensive
A will can be as simple as a handwritten document expressing your wishes for what happens to your property after you die. As long as the document is signed by two witnesses, it should be recognized by the court. Another option is to use an online program. Some of these are free, and others charge a small fee. These programs take you step-by-step through everything you need to consider. The will is then printed out and signed by two witnesses.
If you have a significant estate, minor children, or a complicated family situation, it is probably in your best interest to work with an attorney to create a will. In any case, a will does not keep your family out of court. Your assets will still have to go through probate to transfer titles to your beneficiaries. An attorney can discuss options for various trust instruments that will allow your assets to avoid probate and for your estate to save money in taxes.
What Happens If You Don’t Have a Will
If you die without a will, it is called dying intestate. In this case, the court will decide what happens to your property and your minor children. In general, the following will occur:
- If you are single with no children, your parents will receive your assets.
- If you are single with children, your assets will be divided equally among your children.
- If you are married with no children, your spouse will receive your assets.
- If you are married with children, all of your assets could go to your spouse, or they could be divided among the spouse and children.
Any assets that have another person named on the title or account, such as your home and bank accounts, will automatically go to the other asset holder. The court will also appoint a guardian—most likely a family member—for your minor children. As you can see, without a will, you cannot make special bequeaths to friends, other family members, charities, or churches.
What You Should Include in a Will
Whether you decide to make your own will or work with an attorney, you want to make sure your will does the following:
- Lists who should get what. Along with people you have chosen as beneficiaries on other accounts, this is your chance to make your wishes known about who should get which of your belongings and how much money you want them to inherit from your estate. You can also make it clear if there is someone you don’t want to inherit.
- Names a guardian for minor children. Your will can also state who you want to take care of your children if both parents pass away. You should always discuss this decision with the people you are choosing, and it’s a good idea to name a back-up choice as well.
- Names a financial power of attorney. This person will have the legal authority to handle all of your financial affairs, including paying bills and closing accounts.
- Names a healthcare power of attorney. In the event that you become incapacitated and are unable to make your own decisions, your healthcare power of attorney can make decisions on your behalf.
The Cronin Law Firm Can Answer Your Estate Planning Questions
At The Cronin Law Firm, we realize that writing a will can be a difficult task, but having an estate plan provides peace of mind for you and those you care about. Our estate planning attorneys are available to answer your questions and help you decide what the best course of action is for you. Click the “Text Us” button on this page, complete our contact form, or call us at 248-258-3500 today to schedule an appointment for a complimentary initial consultation.