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Why You Need A Will

One of the most important components of your overall estate plan, your will is a powerful legal document. Prepared with the assistance of an attorney, a carefully crafted will is your most reliable guarantee that distribution of your assets is conducted according to your wishes. In addition, if your family includes minor children, your will enables you to specify who will assume responsibility for their upbringing as well as the manner in which you wish them to be raised.

A will also is the best means of indicating who should receive items that hold sentimental value. And, it is the most dependable way of communicating any special intentions you have (arrangements for the continuing care of pets, for example).

All in all, your will deserves special attention and careful thought. Yet even individuals who already have a will sometimes underestimate its importance or neglect the periodic checkups necessary to ensure that it remains up to date and in tune with current intentions.

Why Everyone Needs a Will

You may believe that you don't need a will. Perhaps you feel that the size of your estate doesn't warrant a will. If your will is absent, the state will govern the division and distribution of your assets after your death. Make your wishes known, do your will today!

If your decision not to have a will rests on either of these assumptions, you're making a mistake with potentially far-reaching implications.

Not having a will means that you effectively surrender to the state important decisions affecting the best interest and security of your heirs. Without a will to make your intentions known, it is likely that your property will be divided in a way you may not like.

For example: If you have a spouse and minor children, you might suppose that your spouse automatically would have access to all of your assets should anything happen to you. However, if you die intestate (without a will), in most states your assets are simply split in half and divided between your spouse and minor children. If half of the cash assets of your estate are insufficient to pay current bills, your spouse must petition the court for authorization to use part of your children's half share to meet living expenses of your family. This process can be time-consuming and expensive.

Another example: If you and your spouse should die in a common accident, who would be named guardian of your minor children? If you have not named someone in a will, the state will decide. For single or widowed parents, this alone is an excellent reason to draft a will.

State and federal taxes may affect the amount of money your family actually will receive upon your death. Trust arrangements in a will drafted with the help of an attorney may lower these taxes, an opportunity you forego if you do not have a will.

Finally, your will enables you to identify recipients of special "keepsakes." Items like costume jewelry, an old set of golf clubs, or a photograph album can be meaningful mementos to family members or close friends. It's best to be specific about who gets what. No matter how often you've mentioned your intentions over the years, it is unwise -- and even unfair -- to rely on your heirs to resolve these matters.

Next > Selecting an Executor

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