The Importance of a Willerror

Having a Will is very important because of what can happen when there isn’t one. When an individual passes away without a valid Will, the person is said to have died “intestate.” A court appoints an administrator to handle the decedent’s affairs, and his or her property is then distributed by a formula fixed by law. The laws for distribution of an intestate estate are rigid and generally do not make provisions for any special situations. After payment of taxes, debts, funeral expenses and administrative costs, the property goes to the surviving spouse, children and/or relatives. The laws are specific as to how property is to be distributed, including which relatives have priority and how it is divided. In short, the law will decide who receives your property, without any regard as to what you would have preferred.

Some people think that they don’t need a Will if their property is owned in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, or owned in “payable on death” accounts. However, you should also have a Will in case the joint tenancy property or payable on death accounts are later determined to be improperly titled, and therefore subject to probate.

Everyone should have a Will. In the same way that you have authority over what to do with your property during your lifetime, you can take responsibility for what happens to it after your death, or let the state decide. But seven out of ten people don’t have a Will and of the 30 percent, who do have a will, 50 percent leave their entire estate to their spouse.

Further, half of all people with Wills have Wills that are five years old or more. To give you a sense of just how much money is distributed from estates without Wills, $100,000,000 a week goes through probate courts from intestate estates here in the United States.

Only after we have discussed and you have thoroughly considered your estate planning options should you have your Will drafted. Even if you have a Will in place now, if circumstances have changed like a substantial change in wealth, the birth of a child or grandchild, a marriage or divorce or the death of a spouse, you will need to revisit that Will and any other estate planning documents to determine if you need to make changes to them.

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