Where There’s a Will …
When you hear the saying, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” you may reflect on a time when someone gave you some wise advice to keep pursuing a goal.
In the financial sense, this phrase takes on a different but equally important meaning. It means, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way… of knowing how you want your assets to be distributed after you die.”
Following Your Wishes
It is truly important to have a will so that your assets will be distributed according to your wishes after you die. Perhaps you have jewelry or family heirlooms that you want to go to specific people after you die. Without a will, your handwritten note or verbal instructions may not be followed.
Although each state has laws of intestacy that control who receives your property after your death, this plan of distribution may not be in accord with your wishes. For example, the laws of intestacy of Illinois mandate that the property of a decedent who has no will, but was married and had descendants will be distributed one-half to the spouse and one-half to the surviving descendants. Even if the decedent had wanted all of his separate property to pass to his surviving spouse and subsequently pass to his children following the spouse’s death, this will not occur unless he had a validly executed will.
There are other reasons to execute a will rather than having a written plan of distribution following death. For example, you may nominate a guardian for your minor children and include trust provisions to defer children’s distributions until they’re the age that you have specified. You also may choose who will serve as the executor of your estate. If you have a large estate, your will can be structured in a way that minimizes estate taxes.
Each state has its own requirements for a legal will. Generally, these include being of sound mind and over the age of majority. The will must also be signed, dated and witnessed by a specific number of people, as required under state law. Although not required, it may be a good idea to have your attorney draft your will so you know that it is properly written and executed.
By executing a will, you gain peace of mind knowing that you made settling your estate easier for your loved ones. Please take this important step in providing financial security for your family.