By Rob Taylor from Money Crashers
Rob Taylor writes about personal finance topics including investing and estate planning to help protect you, your family, and your assets.
My sister recently passed away unexpectedly at the age of 53. I was shocked to find that she didn’t have a will. When I flew out of town to handle her after-life affairs, I thought I would be gone a few days, but the trip turned out to last several weeks.
Her lack of a will resulted in numerous delays and additional paperwork, which were incredibly difficult to deal with, especially during such an emotional time.
Unfortunately, my sister’s story is all too familiar to the majority of people in this country. According to research conducted by Rocket Lawyer, 57 percent of Americans are without this critical document.
But just because the majority of people in this country aren’t prepared for that eventuality doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be. Going without a will puts your estate at serious risk in the event of your passing. If you’re not currently motivated to head to a lawyer or draw one up yourself, here’s a look at 10 great reasons you need a will:
- Designate Who Is In Charge Of Your Estate
One of the most important reasons you need a will is to denote who is in charge of your estate. If you don’t choose what is known as a “personal representative,” one is appointed by the courts. This person is in charge of the distribution of your estate, among other important responsibilities. By not having a will, you’re leaving this critical decision in the court’s hands.
- Prevent Familial Disagreements
A will provides for a clear division of assets, which can go a long way toward preventing familial disagreements. If you own jewelry from your grandparents but you know that several of your children, nieces and nephews, or cousins may want these items, it may be time to get a will. When your directives are spelled out clearly, your family won’t be left feuding.
- Ease the Grieving Process
The regulations regarding the division of your assets when you die without a will are complex and vary from state to state. Your assets might not go to whom you would expect or want. Since your family may find it difficult to cope with the grieving process during this time, don’t complicate their lives with messy financial matters.
- Reduce Estate Taxes
It’s difficult to know what elements you should include in your will if you don’t meet with a professional or use a professional legal service. For example, you need to understand exactly how estate taxes can come into play and impact your heirs. Setting up a trust may allow you to significantly reduce these taxes, but this involves drawing up a well-constructed will.
- Not as Expensive or Difficult as You Think
Although you may want to consider using a lawyer if you have a large family and a complicated asset picture, you can opt for a much more affordable service like Rocket Lawyer. In fact, your first document is free and it only takes about 20 minutes to write a basic will.
- Designate Guardians for the Kids
If your spouse has already passed, a will is needed to designate guardians for your children if you have them. Again, without one, this decision will be made by the courts. When it comes to such an important topic as the care and welfare of your kids, you always want to be the one who makes that decision, and it’s difficult to do this without a will.
- Maintain a Small Business
If you’re an entrepreneur, another excellent reason to have a will is that it allows you to outline the specific plan for your assets and heirs. The last thing you want to do is leave behind a business with no definite plan for succession or future earnings.
- Minimize Probate
All estates go through probate, whether you have a will or not. However, when a will is in place the process is much easier. Having a clear-cut document with instructions on how to divide your assets also helps to avoid delays in decision-making regarding your estate.
- You Never Know When You Might Pass
Although most of us like to think we’ll live for a very long time, that’s not always the case. An accident or medical event can occur at any moment, at any age. That’s why having a will is so important, even for younger people.
- Make Charitable Donations
Are you passionate about a cause? If you want to donate part of your estate to a preferred charity, you can do that with a will. Donating is often a shrewd strategy as it can reduce your estate’s tax burden.
Get your will together today. In the event of your untimely passing, your family and loved ones deserve it.
Do you know of any other reasons to have a will?
Money Crashers strives to educate individuals in making wise choices about credit and debt, investing, education, real estate, insurance, spending, and more. Its mission is to develop a community of people who try to make financially sound decisions.