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Naturally, no one likes to think of the worst. We are always told to focus on the bright side of life, but the fact of the matter is, it is not always going to be sunshine and butterflies. The sudden appearance of the pandemic last year is just one good example of how unpredictable life is and how much you cannot afford to leave anything to chance when it comes to the safety and security of your loved ones.
But it doesn’t take a global crisis to turn your life upside down. A personal emergency can also easily put your family in a difficult situation and if it results in your unexpected passing, there will be even more problems for them down the road.
If you want to rest assured that both your loved ones and your assets are going to be safe and sound even when you’re no longer around, having a proper will is paramount. As you probably know, a will is a piece of document that outlines what will happen when you pass away, from funeral arrangements to the distribution of your assets and more.
Drafting a will is not something that is reserved for when you get old. If you have children or assets of any kind, then you should seriously consider putting your wishes on paper.
Note that a will must be properly written in order for it to be valid, so doing this by yourself can be a risky move. Here are 11 reasons why you should consult a lawyer as soon as possible and draft a will that will give you and your loved ones peace of mind.
Not having a Will is Risky
The first thing you have to understand is that whether you have a will or not, your assets will be distributed upon your passing. Unfortunately, the legal system works in mysterious ways and the outcome may not be what you would have liked. Therefore, living without a will is basically gambling.
Your hard-earned money might fall into the wrong hands while your closest individuals may end up suffering. It’s incredible how many people live their lives with such a risk: the majority of Americans don’t have a will, and while the numbers went up considerably last year amidst the pandemic, a lot of people still think that their assets are not considerable enough to go to such lengths, which is completely incorrect.
Who Will Take Care of Your Children?
One of the most important reasons to draft a will as soon as possible pertains to your children. If you have children who are not of age yet, you should be aware that, should you and your partner pass away, they will need to be assigned a guardian.
You want your kids to be in good hands, so don’t let the court decide on this person, but make sure you include your wishes in your will. Your will practically serves as a legal guide, making sure your appointed person will get to be your kids’ guardian.
Consider Your Partner (and Ex-Partner)
The next reason to have a will has to do with your partner. What many people fail to consider is the fact that the legal system disregards the rights of unmarried partners.
Regardless of how long you have been together with your partner, unless you are legally married, they are, by default, not entitled to inherit your assets. At the same time, separation and divorce are also issues that need to be taken into account. As long as you haven’t legally divorced your ex-spouse, they are still entitled to inheritance despite the fact that you are living separately.
If you don’t want your ex-spouse benefiting to the detriment of your loving partner, you must include this specifically in your will.
You Get to Decide Who Gets Your Assets…
As already mentioned, one of the primary purposes of drafting a will is making sure that your assets go to those people that you want them to. Just like in the case of unmarried couples, the legal system not always favors those who deserve to be favored.
You have probably heard of countless cases where an absent parent appeared out of nowhere and took inheritance over the deceased’s assets instead of their close relatives. If you don’t want such a thing to happen to you, having a will is paramount.
A will allows you to name the beneficiaries who will receive your assets. For instance, step-children and foster children are not able to inherit your assets unless you specifically include them in your will.
What a lot of people are also not aware of is that it is also possible to disinherit individuals who would otherwise be entitled to inheritance. This is a surefire way to prevent family members you are not staying in contact with, ex-spouses, and the like from taking advantage of your death.
…And Who Will Distribute Them
Of course, your passing will not only leave money and property behind. Most likely, you will also have some unfinished business that needs to be taken care of. By this, we mean tasks such as closing bank accounts, paying off bills, canceling credit cards, and so on.
This is another important reason why drafting a will is paramount. A will allows you to appoint an “executor” who will be in charge of handling these tasks, in addition to making sure that the distribution of your assets is done how it should be. Needless to say, you have to choose this person carefully as this is quite an important role.
It’s also a good idea to have a backup executor in case the named person rejects the role for any reason. Unless you appoint your own executor, you cannot rest assured that your will is carried out properly. If you don’t have any close relatives, your will might not even get discovered.
Steering Clear of Stressful Probates
Another important reason to write a will is for the sake of your loved ones. The death of a family member is always a stressful and devastating period in a family’s life. Should you pass away, your spouse and children will go through a difficult period, and a will can alleviate some of their stress if you think ahead.
For your assets to be distributed, they will need to go to probate court. Passing without a will will likely mean long and stressful probates that only add insult to injury in this vulnerable period of your loved ones’ life. A precise will makes this process quicker and simpler, which not only spares your loved ones’ mental health but will also likely save money.
Consult a will lawyer to write a will that is clear and legally valid to make sure it will be recognized by the authorities.
Family Feud Prevention
Not every family is a harmonious one. Sadly, inheritance can be a major cause of conflict and family feud, even though the death of a family member is certainly not the time when anyone needs additional stress.
If you die without a will, your not exactly like-minded family members will be left to guess what you would have wanted, and they will most likely not agree with each other. In a complicated family, this can end up in a huge conflict that may even tear the family apart.
You can save your loved ones from getting caught up in the middle of a power struggle by having a will that will clearly map out who inherits what.
Fulfilling Your Funeral Wishes
No one likes to imagine their own death but the least you can do is ensure that your funeral is carried out the way you want. If you have any special wishes regarding your funeral, it’s a good idea to put them on paper.
While you shouldn’t limit them to your will, they should nevertheless be included here as well. Besides a general executor, you can also appoint a funeral executor who will be in charge of this process. Unless you do this, your funeral wishes may not be carried out as your family will probably start organizing your funeral immediately while the will is only looked into later.
For the same reason, if you have any strong preferences, you might want to let your loved ones know verbally as well.
Saving on Inheritance Tax
It is often said that the only two certainties in life are death and taxes. This couldn’t be more true, since you should know that your family may have to deal with a hefty inheritance tax upon your passing.
Drafting a will can help you minimize the amount of money lost this way, though. A lawyer can help you determine if your assets are taxable and might have some pieces of advice for you in order to mitigate the amounts.
While this may not be your first priority at the moment, it would be a shame to lose considerable amounts of hard-earned money that could have been saved, had you thought of it sooner.
Donating to Charities
If you feel strongly about any particular cause, then that is yet another good reason to write a will. It is certainly a good thought to leave a positive mark behind when you leave this world.
You can do so by including a charity in your will. It’s not only a noble gesture but it also allows your legacy to continue. It’s a great way to make an impact once everything is out of your hands.
Keeping up-to-date With Changes
Having a will is important for the sake of those closest to you. However, your will can easily be undermined if certain changes happen. This is why it’s not enough to just draft a will and call it a day – keeping your will up-to-date is paramount.
For instance, if a beneficiary happens to pass away before you do, you need to adjust your will to the new circumstances. The same is true if you, for instance, get married. Your previous will will be rendered invalid and you will need to draft a new one.
All in all, changes such as these are good reasons to write a will – or adjust your old one, but make sure the changes are signed and witnessed so that they are valid.
Nothing is more important than your loved ones being safe and well taken care of no matter what happens. Having a will is like a safety net that will make sure that your family does not fall apart when you die. Hopefully, the aforementioned reasons have convinced you to seek out a lawyer and write a will, since the importance of this document cannot be stressed enough.
Patrick Adams is a freelance writer and rock-blues fan. When he is not writing about home improvement, he loves to play chess, watch basketball, and play his guitar. More than anything, he loves to spend his time in his garage, repairing appliances and creating stuff from wood.