Top 10 Good Reasons to Have a Will
If you die without a will…
1. The court will appoint an administrator, for a fee. The administrator will distribute your money and your belongings according to state law. You don’t want this to happen because a court-appointed administrator won’t know your personal interests and keep your needs in mind. With a will, you choose the person, called an executor, who sees to it that your property is distributed according to your specific wishes.
2. Your spouse may end up with less than s/he needs. Your surviving spouse may not have enough funds to make ends meet because, for example, more money may go to your children than you wanted. In your will, you can make sure that your spouse gets enough money to live comfortably.
3. Your assets may be divided equally among your heirs. If there is no surviving spouse, your assets will be parceled out equally among your heirs. You may not want this to happen. For example, you won’t be able to protect your assets from an adult child’s creditors or the financial ravages of a divorce decree. Or, one adult child may be well off and not need the money while another child really could use some financial assistance. Also, you may have another family member or friend you want to help and, without a will, it won’t be possible.
4. Your grandchildren may not get a cent. When no beneficiaries have been specified, most state courts will grant an estate’s assets first to a surviving spouse, then children, often leaving out the generation after. With a will you can allocate assets to go to grandchildren and, through a trust, you can name a guardian to manage their financial affairs until they’re ready to do so on their own.
5. Your stepchildren may get nothing. Because most states define heirs as “blood” relatives, stepchildren may not be recognized as heirs. An exception may be made when a stepchild has been legally adopted. A will, however, can insure stepchildren are not left out.
6. You can’t name a guardian for minor children. Without a will, you may not get the guardian you want for minor children. With neither parent alive, the grandparents are the natural guardians of minor children, but it may be up to a court to decide which set of grandparents.
7. You won’t be able to minimize estate taxes your children or other heirs might have to pay. You and a spouse can shelter as much as $1.3 million of assets from federal estate taxes by setting up trusts within your wills. You’ll need the help of a lawyer to draft the wills for you.
8. You can’t leave your favorite things to your favorite people. With a will, and an adjoining letter of intent, you can specify who gets what. It’s a good way to avoid family fights. A letter of intent is like a laundry list of items with the corresponding beneficiary. (Note: In some states, letters of intent can be changed from time to time without having to re-do the will).
9. You can’t leave contributions to a church or charity. State laws do not consider religious and charitable institutions as heirs. Only a will can spell out how your money can be passed to non-heirs and insure your favorite charity gets a donation.
10. Your loved one could lose his/her benefits. You may cause a problem if money ends up going to a parent or other family member who’s being cared for by Medicaid in a nursing facility. Medicaid has strict income qualifications. The added income may disqualify your loved one for continuing to receive benefits.
If you’ve been putting off making a will because the thought of your own demise is too much to bear–stop, and think of your family first. Here are the ten most compelling reasons why it’s important to your family that you take action and make a will, and remember to keep it current.
By Peter Weaver Copied from www.thirdage.com