Many people think they only need a will if they have a lot of assets to divvy up between heirs. That’s not necessarily the case; a strong estate plan, including a will, has benefits for a variety of reasons.
Discover the benefits of a will and why you might need one regardless of your level of wealth. Then find out how an estate planning attorney can help with creating a will and other estate planning matters.
What Are the Benefits of a Will?
Some people might tell you that a will keeps you out of probate, but that’s not true. Whether or not a will is in place isn’t the deciding factor on whether probate is required, though a will can help make the entire probate process easier.
Some other benefits of having a will include:
- You decide where your assets go. While you can’t necessarily create a will that flies in the face of estate law, you have more control over how your assets are handled when you create this document. Otherwise, your property is distributed according to state law.
- You can appoint your executor. As part of your will, you can name an executor (or “personal representative”) for your estate. This lets you pick someone you trust to oversee your estate and the distribution of your assets.
- It may reduce burdens for loved ones. When you put your wishes in writing, loved ones know how best to honor them. No one has to guess what you wanted to do with your money, home, and heirlooms; your heirs may be less prone to argue over assets when you’ve created a written plan for them to follow.
- You can plan for the care of minor dependents. If you have young children, a will lets you appoint a legal guardian for them. This helps ensure people you trust end up caring for your children and not a random family member or a state foster situation.
When Do You Need a Will?
If you like the sound of any of the above benefits and those situations apply to you, you may want to create a will. This is true even if you don’t have much in the way of wealth or assets to distribute to heirs. Consider these times you might need a will:
- You have any assets to pass on to specific people. Without a will, your assets usually go to your nearest relatives. That can be your parents, spouse, or children, or some combination between them. If you have items, no matter their value, that you want to pass on to someone specific, you need a will. For example, you might want your small stamp collection to go to a nephew who showed interest in your hobby. Or, you might want to give your tea set to go to a friend who always spent Sunday afternoons having tea with you. These types of sentimental bequests can be quite meaningful to everyone, even if the assets themselves are not especially valuable.
- You have minor children. It’s essential to have a will if you want a say in who cares for your minor children if something happens to you. You might also want to think about setting up a guardianship.
- You are married. If you’re married and you want some of your assets to go to people other than your spouse, you may need to spell that out with a will.
- You have a positive net worth. Even if you don’t have a ton of money or assets, if you have a positive net worth, you’ll likely leave behind something for your heirs. A will makes it easier to distribute those assets to your loved ones.
A Will Versus a Living Will or Health Care Directive
The term “living will” is sometimes used to mean a health care directive. This document is different from a will that defines how you want your assets distributed. A health care directive puts your wishes for end-of-life medical care in writing so that providers can follow them even if you are incapacitated and can’t vocalize them yourself. The document also lets you name someone who can make care decisions on your behalf when you’re no longer able to make them.
While not everyone needs a will, every adult can benefit from a health care directive. This document provides you with peace of mind that your wishes are known and helps ensure they’re followed during a stressful and critical time.
Why Work With an Estate Planning Attorney?
If you are considering creating a will or other estate planning documents, think about working with an experienced estate planning attorney. Some benefits of working with legal professionals as you plan for the future include:
- Advice about which documents you need. An experienced estate planning lawyer can help you understand all your options and which legal tools might be right for your situation.
- Peace of mind about the details. When a lawyer prepares your estate documents, you can rest assured that legal details are considered and your wishes are protected as best as possible.
- Support for the future. An attorney can keep up with your estate documents as you go on to live the rest of your life. They can remind you about necessary updates or make changes as needed to keep your documents relevant throughout your life.
For more information about how we can help you protect your wishes, contact Stone Arch Law Office today.