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If I Don’t Have a Will, Is It Such a Big Deal?

There are many other reason why everyone needs a will, but the focus of a recent article appearing in, “What Actually Happens If You Die Without A Will,” focuses on young children and what could happen if their parents die with no will.

Many parents put this task off, and it’s certainly understandable. Who wants to plan for their own death? We all want to enjoy life and pretend to ourselves that we will somehow outsmart dying.

However, we should do what needs to be done to make sure our family and children aren’t left to deal with more stress and fighting when we die.

A will is a legal, binding document that provides instructions regarding how you want your estate to be handled after you die. It can also address the care and guardianship of your minor children, if both parents are deceased or one is unable or unwilling to take guardianship of them. You can also include your final wishes for funeral arrangements.

If you die without a will (intestate), then the assets in your estate (possessions, savings, retirement funds and any property you own) will be divided among your living beneficiaries. Without a will, the estate is divided up according to state probate law.

With a will, you can be certain that your specific wishes are honored after your death. For instance, if you have a common-law spouse, you can ensure they get whatever you want them to have. Some states and cities don’t give common-law spouses estate rights. Your will can help you distinguish between biological or step-children, or minor or adult children.

It is important that a will can establish guardianship of your children, in the event of the death of both parents (or an inability or unwillingness of a living parent to take guardianship). Without a will that discusses guardianship for your children, a judge will make the decision, locating and screening potential guardians. This could take weeks or months, and may not be the person who you want raising your children.

Selecting a guardian for your children is a little daunting. Do you want your sister and brother-in-law to raise them, alongside their cousins? Some people select close friends or godparents. It’s not always an easy decision.

You’ll want to have a properly prepared, legally binding will, prepared by an estate planning attorney, to protect your family. Delaying getting this task done, because it’s not a fun way to spend an afternoon, can have serious consequences.

Reference: (November 26, 2018) “What Actually Happens If You Die Without A Will”

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