Why Should You Create a Will?

Most people know they should probably put a will together, but they underestimate its true importance and end up putting it off until it’s too late. Depending on your current situation and how you go about it, creating a will can be a relatively quick, inexpensive, and painless process—so there’s no reason to delay your effort.

That said, if you’re on the fence, you may be interested in learning more about wills, including how to create them, and why they’re so important in the first place.

Creating a Will

There are different rules for creating a last will and testament in different states. For example, in some states, you can create a will by yourself (in sound mind) and have a competent witness or two witness your signing. In others, you may need the help of a lawyer to complete the will and make it official.

Once created, your will can be adjusted over time as you see fit. You’ll also be able to use your will to name a personal representative (an executor) who will carry out your will after your death. They will use the will as their guidance in distributing your assets.

Motivations for Creating a Will

There are several important benefits for creating a will:

  • Designating recipients for your assets. First, you’ll get total control over how your assets are distributed after your death. Your assets may be primarily used to pay off your debts, if applicable, but you may have additional assets to distribute. For example, if you have money in a retirement account, ownership of properties, stocks, and bonds, or valuable personal possessions, you’ll want to make sure these things end up in good hands. It’s common for creators of wills to determine distribution both to establish financial security for their loved ones, and to provide objects of sentimental value to the people they care about.
  • Naming an executor. This is also your opportunity to name the executor of your will. This person will have the responsibility of notifying institutions of your death, representing the estate in court, and setting up new accounts when necessary. They’ll also be responsible for distributing assets and disposing of other property not mentioned by the will. It’s a big responsibility, so choose someone both willing and able to take on the job.
  • Naming a guardian. If you have young children, you’ll also use your will to appoint a guardian for those children in the event of your (and/or your partner’s) death. If you die without a will, a court will be responsible for appointing a guardian for your children, which may or may not align with your desires.
  • Naming a property manager. If you decide to leave property (such as a house) to your young children, you may also need to name a property manager—an adult who can take care of the property until your child becomes an adult.
  • Serving as a backup for a trust. Some people use a living trust to create a trust for their most important assets, which can be easily transferred to their children upon their death. However, a will still serves an important role as a backup plan; it’s an important piece of legal paperwork that can validate and/or reinforce your plans.
  • Overriding default rules. If you die without a will, a court will be responsible for directing the distribution of your assets. If this is the case, default rulings usually apply; for example, your estate may be transferred to your children or next of kin. If you have different plans, a will is the only real way to override these rulings.
  • Establishing peace of mind. Creating a will can improve your peace of mind while you’re still alive. It can feel good to finish this, and know that your desires will be followed after your death—and that your loved ones will be secure.

Do You Really Need a Will?

You may wonder if everybody truly needs a will. For most people, the two variables that matter most are property and children; if you have significant assets, you’ll want a will to make sure they’re distributed as you see fit. If you have children, you’ll need a will to make sure they’re taken care of properly. But if you don’t have much property to your name and you don’t have children, you may not need a will—especially if you’re very young as well.

Considering these variables, most people should have a will in place. If you’re not sure how to start or what to do, your best bet is talking to a lawyer as soon as possible. They’ll be able to guide you through the process, and in most places, help you finalize the paperwork.

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