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Why You Don't Want To Be Without A Will

by Maurice Moore

You may think that you're too young to need a will, or it might just be a topic you don't want to think about. The truth is that everyone needs a will. Here's why.

What Happens to Your Assets if You Don't Have a Will?

If you die without a valid will in place, your estate goes through probate court, and the process can take months or even years, depending on how complicated your assets are. If you have minor children, they won't be provided for until your family completes the probate process.

If you own real property, your house could sit vacant while the probate process takes place. This could lead to it being damaged or taken over by squatters—destroying the value of what you want to leave for your family.

If you do have a will, then the probate process will go much faster. In addition, your executor can manage your assets according to your will without having to wait until the probate process is finalized.

Who Gets Your Stuff if You Don't Have a Will?

If you don't have a will, you can't control who gets your belongings. The state will decide for you. They'll distribute your possessions among your surviving relatives based on their relationship with you.

Your closest relatives, such as your spouse and children, will get the most. More distant relatives will get a smaller share. You won't be able to help specific family members who may need more help than others.

Even if you're happy with these arrangements, it's still not a good idea to be without a will. Remember that your family will still have to deal with a more complicated probate process when you don't have a will.

What Happens to Your Children If You Don't Have a Will?

Your will should also say who should take care of your children if something happens to you. Otherwise, the court will make the decision.

You might have someone you want to care for your children, but you need to put it in writing with legal effect. Another family member who isn't aware of your wishes might start a legal battle, thinking they're doing what's right for you and your children. They may also think the person you wanted shouldn't have the responsibility.

If you have a will, the court will almost always approve what you want. If you don't, the court will listen to everyone's arguments and may make a decision you wouldn't want.

For help writing a will, or for more information on estate planning, contact an estate planning attorney near you.