Most people live as if tomorrow will come for sure. But what if something tragic happened and you were no longer here? Who would inherit your house, your collectibles from one generation to the next, or your pictures?
“Most people assume that if they are married and don’t have a will, all of their assets will automatically go to their spouse,” says attorney Harry Cash. “This is not necessarily the case. If you don't have a will or don't hold all of your assets jointly, the state determines where your assets go. If one spouse dies and there are children, the surviving spouse gets at least one third of the deceased spouse’s assets, but the deceased spouse may have intended for everything to go to his or her spouse at death.”
A RocketLawyer.com survey found that a stunning 50 percent of American parents do not have a will. Of those age 55-64 (the baby boomers), 41 percent do not have a will.
The top reasons for not having a will were:
Just haven’t gotten around to making one;
No sense of urgency;
Didn’t think they needed a will; and
They don’t have a will because they don’t want to think about death.
“This is not something you want to leave to chance and hope for the best,” Cash asserts. “A will allows you to specifically state what you want to happen to your assets when you pass away. If you have children, you have the opportunity to say who will care for them until they are 18. You also can state specifically that if you pass away and your spouse is still living, all of your assets go to your spouse. Even though people don’t like to think about death, this document could save your loved ones from a lot of angst.”
What you need to create a will:
A list of significant assets.
Documentation of employment benefits statements, insurance policies, deeds to real property, partnership and business agreements.
Determine who will inherit your property.
Choose an executor for your estate. Every will must name someone to serve as executor, to carry out the terms of the will. Let that person know you are naming them to perform this task.
Identify a guardian for your children. If your children are under 18, decide who you want to raise them in the event that you and their other parent can't. You should also pick someone who can manage your children's property.
Identify other decision-makers to carry out your health and money choices for you if you cannot.
“The last thing a grieving family member needs is to deal with uncertainty when it comes to dealing with the estate of a deceased family member,” says Cash. “Preparing a will doesn’t take long and could be the single most important thing you do for your family.”