Dealing with issues of mortality can be uncomfortable for anyone. After all, death is a painful and finite subject. Few people like to think about the fact that they will die someday, but the truth is that everyone will. Because of this uncomfortable inevitability, having a last will and testament is paramount.
What is a will?
A will doesn’t just protect your assets, it protects your loved ones too. If you’ve been putting off writing a will because you think you have plenty of time left to get it done, consider these factors before putting it off for another day.
Intestate and probate
Be aware of the implications of dying “intestate,” or without a last will and testament. Because each state has its own rules regarding property distribution and the elements of a proper will, dying without one could mean that everything in your life is “up for grabs”, causing all kinds of turmoil after you pass away.
On top of property distribution, it is also crucial to take into account the legal ramifications of the probate process (the period of time required for an executor to review your assets and pay off unpaid debt using your estate). Without a will, your loved ones could experience an extended period of undue suffering wherein all of your possessions and assets are tied up in probate after you pass on.
If you have children, and you don’t have a will, you run the risk of your kids being given to a relative you really don’t want raising them after you pass away. However, even worse than that reality might be, without a will your children might also become part of the foster care system. Having a will sends your kids to someone you trust to raise them the way you want them to be raised.
Knowing the tax code
Benjamin Franklin once said, “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Unfortunately, this sardonic saying remains true even today.
Death and taxes go hand in hand on both state levels. Passing away without a will means that additional taxes could be imposed on your estate by federal or state governments.
Unfortunately, when someone passes away, the loved ones they left behind could find themselves getting into petty disputes over property or specific items when a will is not present. Furniture, family heirlooms and other valuables could cause dissent amongst your loved ones, resulting in feuds and squabbles. Having a legally enforceable will and using that document to bequeath your possessions and assets can help those you leave behind avoid unnecessary struggles.
Getting a will
If you are strapped for the cash, or for the time to see an attorney, you can complete your last will and testament entirely online using the services provided on websites like Legal Zoom. Once you have answered some basic questions, you are able to complete a standard form that protects your assets in the event of your death for much less money than you would by using a real estate attorney.
Regardless of how you complete your will however, make sure you keep a copy of your last will and testament in a safe place. Consider putting it in a fireproof safe in your home, or placing it in a safety deposit box. Then, let your family know where to find your legal documents in the event that the worst happens.
Being prepared makes a difference, even if that means only being prepared for the worst.