What If I Die Without a Will?

I’m often asked if people really need a Will.  My flippant response is often “it depends, but if you are not going to do one, take my card and give it to your family because they will most likely need a good attorney when you die.”  When you die without a Will, an already difficult time can become a complicated legal situation for your family.  The effect of dying without a Will depends on what state you reside in at your death, but the general impact is fairly consistent in most states.  Most likely you will have a more complicated probate process than if you had a Will and depending upon your family situation, people may manage and inherit your estate who you would not have selected if you had done a Will.

do-it-nowSo why don’t more people have Wills?  There are many reasons people give for not having a Will.  These are a few:

  • Too Young.  Even the youngest adults are likely to benefit from having a Will.  You can designate someone to manage your affairs upon your death and the person or persons who are to receive your estate.  Once you are married or have children the reasons for having a Will as a young person are even more compelling.
  • Lack of Property. Even if you have little to no property, it still must be dealt with after your passing. Without a Will, no one has the authority to make decisions, thus making the process more stressful for those you leave behind.
  • Indifference.  Like being too young, even middle age and elderly people often think they don’t need a Will until they are in a nursing home or on their death bed.  By then it may be too late.
  • Time and Effort.  Some people may know that they need to appoint someone to manage their affairs after their death, but when they try to think who that should be they become confused or discouraged about making the selection.  But meeting with an estate planning attorney in person can often suggest alternatives to resolve concerns. In the end, the time spent is a good investment.
  • Legal Fees: The cost of hiring an estate planning lawyer and ensuring you have a legally sound Will can often more than pay for itself in the conflict avoidance among your loved ones after your passing.

I urge everyone to at least sit down with an estate planning attorney to discuss your situation in general terms to see what benefits you might gain by having a Will.  Most attorneys will tell you if you are in a situation where a Will is not necessary.

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