According to a Gallup poll in 2016, less than 50% of Americans say they have a will describing their wishes for handling their money and estate after their death. Young people, racial minorities, and adults with only high school educations were most likely to report not having a will. For people without property or children, not having a will might be considered appropriate. For many of us, however, even a simple will can provide peace of mind for ourselves and our loved ones. Nolo identifies several considerations for deciding whether you need a will.
Who gets your stuff when you die? This is the most basic reason for a will or similar plan. Without it, state laws determine how your property is distributed. While this, of course, won’t be your problem to deal with, insufficient planning can create pain, conflict, and major expenses for the people you care about. And some of your property may end up in the hands of individuals you did not intend.
Who will wrap up your estate? Naming an executor or personal representative in your will identifies the person who will manage your affairs and ensure your final wishes are carried out. Without a will, the courts can appoint anyone they deem appropriate, including a stranger.
Who will care for your children? According to Nolo, “a will is the only place to nominate a guardian to care for your children.” Without a will, courts will choose the caregiver or guardian for your children. Additionally, if you want to leave property or some other specific inheritance to your children, this can be thwarted if you have not formally communicated your wishes in a will or similar document.
Estate planning attorneys can help you craft a document the ensures your decisions in life are implemented after your death. If your reticence about making a will is related to legal costs, there are other affordable options. Nolo and other similar websites, for example, provide resources for planning and producing your own will, which you can then sign along with the needed witnesses. For extra peace of mind, you can have a lawyer review this self-made version at a lower rate than their fee for drafting the entire document. However you go about it, start now!