Many people avoid making a will because they don’t know where to start or fear their own mortality. But without a will, your loved ones will be left in the dark about your final wishes and state law will decide who receives your property.
Don’t be afraid of making a will. You’ll understand why it’s important to have a will and be ready to make one right now instead of later once you learn:
A last will and testament, or will for short, is a legal document that has a set of instructions for your loved ones to follow after your death. It allows you to decide who will receive your property (beneficiaries), who will take care of your minor children (guardian) and who will be in charge of carrying out your final wishes (executor or personal representative). In other words, a will puts you — not state law — in control of how your property is divided after you die.
If you don’t make a will, the laws of the state you live in at the time of your death essentially provide a will for you. The laws governing the estate of a person who fails to make a will are called “intestacy laws,” and the estate of a person who fails to make a will is called an “intestate estate.”
Unfortunately, intestacy laws vary widely across the states. In fact, if you don’t have a will, the people who end up with your property after you die may not be the ones you’d have chosen had you taken the time to make a will.
To make a valid will, you must be 18 years of age or older and of sound mind. In other words, you understand what you own and know who are the “natural objects of your bounty,” meaning the people who would be likely to inherit your estate, such as your spouse, children, grandchildren or other family members.
Your will should include:
To make a will, you’ll need to decide:
Once you make these decisions and organize your thoughts, your last will and testament should be typed up on a computer. You’ll then need to sign the document in front of two witnesses.
While you may not be thrilled about making a will, it’s important to share your final instructions with your family. Otherwise, they’ll be left to guess about what you would have wanted and, despite your true wishes, state law will decide who gets what, when they’ll get it and who’ll be responsible for overseeing the process.
Don’t leave a mess for your loved ones to clean up. Instead, take the time to make a will so you’ll be in control and have peace of mind knowing your family will be taken care of after you’re gone.