August is National Make-a-Will month, serving as a great reminder and motivator for American adults to finally sit down and create their wills. A 2022 survey conducted by Caring.com found that just 33 percent of Americans have a will in place. That means that 67 percent don’t have a say over what should happen to their assets or their dependents if they were to pass away. Most Americans know that they need a will, but they just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Others are simply unaware of why they should have a Will. Keep reading to find out who needs a will and important reminders as to why you should have one in place. Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered there as well!
What is a Will?
A will, short for Last Will & Testament, is a legal document that states how you want your assets and property distributed after you pass away. For instance, you can state in your Will that you would like to bequeath your car to your daughter or the balance of your financial accounts to your favorite nephew. When you eventually pass away, the assets and property named in your document will be distributed to your beneficiaries per your wishes.
A will can also be used to designate guardians if you have any children, pets, or adult dependents who will need care and support in your absence.
Who needs a Will?
Every adult over the age of eighteen should have a will. Many individuals assume that wills only apply to older people or people who have amassed a certain amount of wealth. We can thank this belief system part of popular media, which often tells stories of long-lost relatives and large inheritances or affluent “trust fund babies” who never had to work a day of their lives.
In reality, creating a will offers protections to Americans at any age, no matter how young or old. Further, it controls what will happen to your assets and personal belongings, no matter how nominal in value they may seem.
A will allows individuals to use their voice, even when they are no longer around. Nearly half of Americans run households with dependents, so the option to name a guardian should be a huge motivator in itself. Keep reading to find out 5 reasons why you should have a will.
5 Reasons Why You Need A Will
Still not quite convinced why you need a will? Or, maybe you understand the importance of having a will but not quite feeling the urgency yet? Here are 5 reasons why you should consider setting up your will this month:
- Provide for loved ones: One of the main motivators for creating a will is to provide for your loved ones. The main method is choosing a guardian for your children (minors or dependent adults) and/or pets. This ensures that a person you trust will provide care for your loved ones. You can designate financial support for them as well.
- Control what happens to your estate: In the absence of a will, the probate court must use intestacy laws to determine what should happen to your estate. These can be considered state default laws that decide how assets and property should be passed based on next-of-kin rules. However, these laws were designed when most Americans fit into the mold of traditional nuclear families. Today, most Americans belong to mixed families, which can sometimes come with estranged relationships and complex family dynamics. This means that intestacy laws might not fit neatly into your unique circumstances and thus won’t necessarily result in your desired outcomes. If you want to make sure your assets are inherited by the individuals you care about, you shouldn’t take any chances and take care to set up a will.
- Create clarity during difficult times: Death is never an easy process for anyone, and dealing with administrative issues during grief can be downright terrible. When passing away without a will in place, the family can be left confused regarding your wishes. At worst, it can lead to family conflict and infighting. In contrast, a valid will can create clarity and thus prevent confusion and conflict for your loved ones so that they can focus on the grieving and healing processes.
- Avoid problems and delays: The probate process is notoriously long and costly. In California, the probate process can even take up to two years! This is a long time to wait for your inheritance. Put an uncontested will in place to avoid any further problems and delays.
- Donate to your favorite cause: Last but not least, a will allows you to donate to a cause, charity, or organization that you care about. It’s certainly optional, so don’t feel any pressure to do so. However, intestacy laws do not provide for donations, so setting up a will and designating a non-profit or organization as a beneficiary is your opportunity to leave your legacy. Need
How to Make A Will: 10 Easy Steps
Let’s face it: another important reason why many Americans haven’t created their wills yet is due to the perception that it’s a complex legal process. This idea is valid because estate planning used to be riddled with expensive attorneys and complicated legal jargon.
Today, however, things are much different! Companies like Trust & Will have revolutionized the industry by providing an online estate planning platform that makes creating a will easy, accessible and affordable.
Here are the surprisingly easy steps to make a will:
- Decide how you will make a will, such as hiring an estate planning attorney, using a downloadable template, or using an online will creation platform such as the one offered by Trust & Will. Need
- Inventory the assets you want to include in your will.
- Choose your beneficiaries (those who will inherit your assets).
- Nominate the executor who will oversee the closing of your estate.
- Select guardians for your children and/or pets.
- Make a contribution to your favorite cause (optional).
- Sign your will in front of witnesses, who should also sign and date the will. Consider getting the will notarized if you want it to be self-proving.
- Store your will in a safe location.
- Let your executor and other trusted loved ones know that you’ve created a will and how to access it if needed.
- Set reminders to review and update your will. Big life events should also prompt a revision to your will, such as getting married, having a child, getting divorced, or buying a house.
We hope this guide gave you extra motivation this National Make-A-Will month! A will is a powerful legal tool, no matter your age or level of income. The longer you wait, the more at risk you are of not being able to have a say over what should happen to your estate. Creating a will today can be much easier and more affordable than it used to be. There are no more excuses to procrastinate.
By: Patrick Hicks, Head of Legal, Trust & Will (trustandwill.com)