Even though music legend Prince died two years ago, the legal battle over his fortune continues to this day since he didn’t have a will. Like Prince, Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin also made this incredibly expensive mistake of not making a will in her living years; her surviving family members have been bitterly divided and her estate is plagued with disputes. Many other famous celebrities failed to draw up a will as well, resulting in court battles among relatives long after their deaths.
If you think that making a will is only for celebrities or the ridiculously rich, don’t be mistaken. While many may believe that a will is only for the super-wealthy, you must understand that a will or an estate plan is one of the most important documents that you will sign in your lifetime.
Reluctant to Make Your Will? Cut the Excuses!
While people spend a major part of their life making money and growing their investments, little do they plan about the future of that wealth and its distribution among the next generation in a legally sound way. Per a recent survey by Caring.com, around 58% of American adults do not have a will.
Another interesting fact is that while those surveyed do realize the importance of drafting a will, they are somewhat reluctant in devoting time to do it. While some think that making a will is a complicated, costly and time-consuming affair, others feel that their wealth is just too puny to make the effort. Additionally, some may feel more stressed about today, and thinking about tomorrow can be overwhelming.
Write Your Will: Don’t Leave Without It
Wills are not just for aristocrats, the ultra-affluent, or the morbid; it’s a legal document that will help you give away your wealth in the way you wish. Please note that for a will to stand up in court, it should be signed by two witnesses. Further, you must appoint an executor who is responsible for the implementation of the last will of the testator.
If you own a decent amount of assets and have a family, a proper will to bequeath your accumulated wealth becomes essential. While you must have already named the beneficiary designations for your insurance, stocks, bonds, retirement accounts, what about your home, business, other real estate properties and those precious metals or antiques you own?
The most important benefit of writing a will is that the assets of the testator can be distributed according to their wishes post-death. Otherwise, if you die intestate (without a will), your assets are distributed based on intestacy laws in the state in which you live in.
In some cases, it’s necessary for the courts to oversee the distribution of your assets, and this legal process is known as probate. It’s important to note that probate laws vary by state, and once probated, a will becomes a public record. Estate distribution begins with your spouse if you’re married, and from there, passes on to surviving children and other relatives.
If you do not have kids and die intestate, it may so happen (in some states) that your spouse will not inherit everything. Instead, your wealth will be shared by your siblings and other distant relatives, much against your wish. So, in the absence of a will, you cannot control how your assets will be distributed.
If you have a minor child, a will provides for his or her care and helps you name a guardian so that they remain in the custody of someone you trust. If you want a chunk of your wealth to be donated to your favorite charities but have not prepared a will, your wish would remain unfulfilled.
Once your will is ready, be sure to update it whenever there is any change in your family. In fact, one of the major advantages of writing a will is that it provides you flexibility in decision-making, as changes in family circumstances may induce the testator to alter their will.
When a person has accumulated a substantial amount of tax-advantaged assets – to be ultimately inherited by legal heir(s) – it’s worth naming the beneficiary on those accounts to eliminate any unfavorable income tax situation. A will can help you to set up beneficiary designations in the most tax-efficient way possible.
Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way
Initially, will preparation may seem like a hassle, but believe me, it is nothing compared to the inconveniences your beneficiaries may face if you die without writing one. Losing a loved one is extremely difficult, and writing a will can make your passing a little bit easier on those you leave behind.
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