What is a will? Do I need one?

The most basic estate planning tool, a will is the legal document that states the actions you wish to be taken after your death in many regards. Some of the advantages of having a will include:

A will allows property to be transferred according to the estate owner’s wishes, avoiding state intestacy laws. A will permits a parent, instead of the state, to name the guardian for any minor children or other dependents, such as a handicapped adult child. A will enables the estate owner to name an executor to administer the estate, which, in some states, minimizes probate and its related expense. A will can lower estate settlement costs by minimizing estate taxes, waiving probate fees and bonds and streamlining the disposition of estate assets. Provisions in a will can defer distribution of a minor child’s remaining share of the estate to a more mature age than 18 or 21. With a will, an estate owner can be certain that bequests of money or personal property to specific individuals or charitable organizations will be carried out. If the estate includes a business, a will can authorize the executor to operate the business until the estate is settled, with no exposure to personal liability on the executor’s part.

Do you need a will? If you have a spouse, children or property, the answer is most definitely yes.

Who can make a will? State statute determines who can make a will. Generally, you must be “of age,” as defined by state law, and of sound mind. In addition, state law generally requires that your will be written, signed and witnessed by a required number of witnesses. While you can draw your own will, the preparation and execution of this important legal document is generally best left to an attorney.

What are the implications of dying without a will? People who die without a valid will, die intestate. In this event, the state in which they resided effectively provides a will through the state’s intestacy law. This means that the state dictates who will receive the estate owner’s property and in what proportion. While state intestacy laws do attempt to provide for a “fair” distribution of property, the state’s “one-size-fits-all” will simply cannot reflect the specific wishes of the estate owner in regard to either property distribution or the unique needs of the estate owner’s heirs. In addition, state intestacy laws require that the probate court appoint a guardian for any minor children. The court-appointed guardian, who may not even be a relative, may be required to post bond and the guardianship will be supervised by the probate court. Finally, when a person dies intestate, the probate court appoints an administrator of the estate. This administrator can be anyone of the court’s choosing and is required to post bond, an additional expense that must be paid by the estate.

The choice is yours: You can draw your own will or the state will do it for you.

This article provided by NewsEdge.