It is unfortunate but true that many, if not most, people have either been involved with or known someone who was involved in a bitter dispute with a sibling or parent after the death of a loved one. When there is not a last will and testament or when it is not clear, a mad scramble can take place between family and sometimes the state as well. Properly drawing up a will is something everyone ought to consider.
What Is a Will?
In short, a will is a legal document signed before death that dictates how a person’s assets are to be handled. This ranges from money to property even to business holdings and children. State laws vary. But in most cases, if there is no legal will, assets will be distributed according to certain rules.
For example, the spouse will often be first in line to receive anything. In other cases, it can be left up to a probate court to decide. If the thought of a government agency deciding what happens to your money and children sends a shiver down your spine, a will is probably best for you.
What About the Money?
The most obvious problem solved by a will is the distribution of funds. If the deceased had no positive net worth, for example, in the case of overbearing debt, this may not be as important. A will can help allocate funds to a trust, which can protect the inheritance from taxes upon death. Money can also be assigned to charitable organizations or other destinations.
What About the Property?
Property also must be handled. Particularly in cases of stocks or real estate holdings, there can be aggravating laws and taxes that kick in if there is no predetermined destination for them. Oral wills can sometimes be defended. But if the grandson really does get the car, it is best to put it in writing. This can help prevent inter-family squabbles as well.
What About the Children?
Perhaps most important is who will raise the children. Of course, in most cases the spouse will have automatic guardianship, but it should be decided and written down who will get the kids in the unfortunate event of their orphanage. This should be discussed and determined in order to minimize the fear and grief the little ones will already be feeling in such a situation. This is particularly true if the state law would send them to a household that you are not comfortable with. Check the state ordinances to be sure.
Who Might Not Need a Will?
Now, someone who is young, single, indebted and childless may not need a will. But at each stage of life, the document should be revisited. Marriage, the birth of a child, the acquisition of a house or something similar, is the perfect time to make sure everything is taken care of. In the event of death, uncertainty is the biggest source of stress. Remember, a carefully prepared will can take all that away.