When you’re young and healthy, creating a will is probably not too high on your list of priorities. But there are many benefits of having a will, especially if you have children. A will is legally binding and protects your spouse, your children, and whatever assets you may have when you pass away.
What happens to your assets if you don’t have a will?
Whether you have a will or not, your estate goes through the probate process, which includes probate court, when you pass away. Having a will makes the process go faster, though, and your assets will go where you want them to. Dying without a will is known as dying “intestate,” which means your estate is divided without your input.
We know it isn’t fun to think about, which is why many people put it off. But without a plan in place — including a will — you have no say in where your assets go if you pass away. Without a will, your local probate court will refer to local “intestate succession” laws to decide who receives your property.
Your spouse will be prioritized first, followed by your children, then parents, then siblings, then extended family members.
If you’re unmarried, your partner will not receive anything without a will. Even worse, if you have no living relatives closer than a first cousin, your belongings go to the government.
No matter your age, creating a will is a loving thing to do for your loved ones.
Avoid family conflict
You may have promised your home, your car, or even dishes to a particular family member, but a verbal agreement isn’t legally binding. (Neither are post-it notes!) Without a will in place, conflict can arise during one of the most difficult circumstances.
Stress and grief can sometimes bring out the worst in people. Avoid squabbles among your family members — whether they’re loved ones or not — by creating a will that clearly delineates who gets what.
If you have multiple children, things can get complicated quickly without a will. Say, for example, you own property. Rather than that property passing to your oldest child, as you may expect, it may end up having to be sold off and the profits divided among your children without a will in place explaining who gets what.
Decide who carries out your wishes
A will allows you to name an executor. Your chosen executor will make sure all your affairs are in order when you die, including paying off bills, canceling credit cards, and notifying banks and other places of your passing.
When you create a will, you are able to amend it later on. So if you initially appoint someone as your executor and decide later on it wasn’t the best choice, you can revise your will.
Make a plan for your kids
This can be a big catalyst for parents, and one of the main benefits of having a will. Without a will, the court will determine which family member or state-appointed guardian will raise your minor children. With a will, however, you get to make that choice. This can be especially important if you have children from a previous marriage. Avoid additional complications and heartache during an already difficult time by creating a will.
Pay less in taxes
Creating a will allows you to pass less inheritance tax. Not everyone pays inheritance tax, but creating a will allows you to minimize the inheritance tax liability.
Giving away some of your money as a gift to a charity can actually lower your tax liability. If you plan to leave money to your children or loved ones, consider setting up a trust for that purpose. That’s another way to save some money and avoid paying fees.
Is having a will enough?
While there are many benefits to having a will, eLegacy recommends taking it a step further with a trust. A trust typically allows you to bypass the probate process, saving time, money, and emotional stress. It also makes it easier for your trusted agent to step in quickly after an unexpected death, illness, or accident.
A trust is also private, while probates are public record. While trusts are more expensive to set up on the front end, they can save money in the long run.
Don’t procrastinate another day. It’s important and affects your legacy. If you have children, it’s even more important. Learn how to protect your assets with our free ebook below.