Who gets my assets after I die? I have kids and pets, who will take care of them after my death? You get to choose the answers to these questions. All you need to do is to make a will. This process used to be tedious, cumbersome, and expensive: you had to find an attorney, go to their office, sign a lot of papers, and pay a lot of money. Not anymore. Now you can make your last will and testament online in less than 30 minutes, and your loved ones will appreciate that.
Your last will and testament might make the life of your loved ones much easier and lessen their emotional burden after your death. They would know what you wanted them to do with your assets and who you assigned to be the guardian for your kids and pets.
Why Do You Need a Will? Top 6 Reasons to Have a Will
You know who will be the executor of your will.
A person who you trust should agree to act on your behalf after you pass away. They will make funeral arrangements, apply for a death certificate, take care of your social accounts, contact your heirs, and such. If you don’t appoint a will executor, they will be appointed by the court, and it may be not the person you would trust.
You control who gets your assets after you die.
While you are still alive, you decide how your estate will be handled after your death. You can determine who gets your real estate property, your car, your savings, your valuables, etc. If you don’t create a will, the court will make these decisions for you and probably not the way you would like it. In some states, your spouse will get it all; in other states, your whole estate will be distributed among your closest relatives. The biggest estate planning mistake you can make in your life is not leaving a will.
You control who will take care of your children.
In your last will, you can make a decision about who should care for your minor children In case you don’t have a will, the court will appoint a family member or a state guardian.
You control who will take care of your pets.
In your will, you can appoint people you trust as guardians for your pets. Otherwise, your pets may end up in a shelter.
You can make gifts and donations.
In certain states, gifts of up to $13,000 are excluded from the estate tax, so you can increase the value of your gift, and your heirs will definitely appreciate that. In addition, you can make donations to the charity of your choice that reflects your personal interests and values.
You can disinherit people you don’t like or don’t want to be your heirs.
Those people, who might otherwise be appointed your heirs by the probate court, will not get anything if you specifically exclude them in your will.
You can distribute assets according to your religious beliefs.
If you die without a will, your assets will be distributed according to the laws in your state. Even if you’re a deeply devout believer, the court will not take the customs and rules of your religion into account when dividing your assets. But if you create a will in advance, you can ensure that those rules are followed. For American Muslims, there are even special Sharia-compliant will makers.
Remember that you can always change your mind and make as many corrections to your will as you need. Most online will makers will not even charge you for that.
Who Needs a Will?
Young people usually think that a will is a document that old people make on their deathbed. The truth is that death may come unexpectedly, and if you don’t have a will, your assets may be dispersed in a way you would never imagine. For example, everything might go to the spouse from one’s second marriage, and the kids from the first marriage get nothing. Therefore, it’s smarter to make your will ahead of time. If you wait for too long, you might never get the chance.
Let’s look at who would benefit from making a will.
People who have assets.
This includes any assets. Even if you have just an old car and a guitar, you can still decide who will get them after your death. If you don’t have a will, everything you owned will be thrown away or sold at an estate sale for pennies. If you have a spouse, in most states, they will inherit everything after the probate court.
People who have kids.
You can nominate a guardian for your minor kids while you are still alive. In case one of the parents dies, the custody will be most likely awarded to the surviving parent. However, if both parents are dead and the kids are orphaned, the court may appoint one of your relatives to be your kids’ guardian, and it might be someone that you don’t want in charge of your kids. Alternatively, they could get sent to foster care. In your will, you can also specify which part of your estate, if any, goes to your kids. They must be 18 (or in some states, 21) years old to legally inherit money.
People who have pets.
Typically, your pets will be left in your household after your death. However, if you live alone, you need to have a will where you name a guardian for your pet. If you don’t have a will, your pet may go to a shelter for re-adoption, or might even be euthanized if there is nobody to take care of it.
People who have life partners or common-law spouses.
If you want to leave your estate to your life partner, you need a will where you specify which assets go to them. Otherwise, all of the property could be evenly distributed between eligible heirs after all your debts and legal fees are paid.
People whose parents are still alive.
In case you want a part of your estate to go to your parents after your death, you need to specify that in your will. Otherwise, all your assets may go to your spouse or be evenly split between your spouse and your kids, depending on your state’s laws.
People who have siblings.
If you have no spouse, no kids, and no parents, but have siblings, a fight over your estate might bring out the worst in them. To help prevent a bitter court battle, you need a will where you specify which part of your assets each sibling receives.
When Should You Make a Will?
Anytime is a good time to make a will. Actually, the sooner you make it, the better for you and your loved ones. You can always make changes to your will if needed, as many times as you need.
What Should a Will Include?
Your will should include the following information:
Your beneficiaries – These are the people or organizations who will inherit your estate.
Your assets – This is what your beneficiaries will get.
Your debts – Your mortgage, loans, outstanding taxes. Some of your debts may become the responsibility of the estate, so you may want to consider purchasing life insurance to help your beneficiaries cover certain expenses after your death.
The executor of a will – This is the person who will handle your estate and the provisions in your will.
Guardians – If you have kids, pets, or other dependents, you will need to appoint guardians for them.
Your will does not have to be a complicated document, and it won’t take much time to create it with any of the online will makers reviewed on our site. Once you have created a will and made sure it is in compliance with the current state laws, you should store it in a safe place and let others know where to find it.
Should I have a trust or a will?
When thinking about estate planning, you may start wondering whether you need a will if you have a trust. To find the answer to this question it’s important to understand the differences between the two documents. A living trust is a legal document that transfers all or some of your assets into a trust and appoints a company or an individual, such as yourself, as the trustee who controls and manages the assets. While a will comes into play only after your death, a trust goes into effect as soon as it is signed. Putting your assets into a trust will allow your relatives to inherit your belongings without going through probate, which is a time-consuming and expensive process. Plus, information about assets listed in your trust will remain confidential, while everything you list in a last will and testament will become public.
On the other hand, you can’t appoint guardians for your children or state your requests for end-of-life matters in a trust, so you will need to make a will with that information. In conclusion, wills and trusts are different estate-planning documents that are best used together to create an effective estate plan.
The Bottom Line
If you ask yourself “Do I need a will?” then the answer is always yes. First of all, you need a will to prevent fighting in your family for your assets. Do I need a will or trust even if I have no assets? Of course! Wills are not for the rich and famous only. Even if you only own a few things, you can still mention in your will who will get them.
You need a will to appoint guardians to your kids or pets. If you are entitled to receive any pension benefits or have life insurance, you need to specify who will be the beneficiary after you pass away. A will allows you to leave the things you own to the people you care about. This is why you need a will. Today, wills are very easy to create online. We recommend that you read our online will maker reviews and select the company that meets your needs best. And to find all the information you could possibly need about creating a will, go to our last will and testament guide page.