Is a will really something that you need? If you want to know that your family will follow your wishes after your death, having a will is critical. Your will is your opportunity to ensure that your assets are distributed the way you intend, rather than leaving it up to a judge who does not know you and your family.
It does not matter how much or how little money you have. It does not matter if you have dependents or not. Putting together a will can help you protect the people and assets you leave behind.
1. Your will allows you to determine who will raise your minor children if something happens to you.
No one likes to think about dying and leaving their children behind. Unfortunately, not thinking about it will not necessarily prevent it. If something happens to you, who do you want to raise your children? You want to make that decision for yourself, rather than letting a judge who has never met you or your children make the decision on your behalf. In your will, you can lay out not only your first choice, but also who you might like to raise your children if that individual is not available or cannot take on that responsibility at the time of your death.
If you have minor children at the time of your death and you do not have a will, the court will appoint a representative to act in the best interests of your children. That representative, however, did not have the chance to get to know you, and may have only a limited amount of time to get to know your children. As a result, it can prove very difficult to determine what will work best for your children. With a will, you can choose a guardian for your children that you feel best represents your values, your religion, and your desires for your children after your death.
2. Your will may allow you to provide for surviving family members.
You may financially support your spouse, your children, and, in some cases, elderly parents or other family members. You may have a niece or nephew that you offer financial support on a regular basis. Once you die, you can no longer offer them the regular financial help they have come to expect, but you can offer a final financial gift that will help your loved ones through that difficult time. In your will, you can lay out exactly what you want to leave to each member of your family, which may make it easier to distribute your remaining money.
If you do not want to specifically provide for family members or friends, you may choose to donate your money after your death. Your will can clearly designate the cause you want your funds to go to, including funds from selling your home, vehicles, and other possessions. In many cases, that donation can allow you to make an immense impact on organizations that you value.
3. A will can help avoid arguments between surviving family members.
The death of a family member can, in some cases, turn even what seems to be a loving family vicious. You may assume that your surviving family members will fairly distribute your estate: that your adult children, for example, will make sure that all of them are provided for, or that your siblings will fairly distribute the money from your estate.
Unfortunately, in reality, that may not play out as you had hoped. Sometimes, families can turn on one another as they fight over the funds from an estate, especially if you have not clearly laid out your requests and requirements in your will. By putting together a will that clearly lays out your wishes, you can avoid those fights and, in many cases, help maintain peace within the family.
4. A will allows you to determine what will happen to your property and your money after you die.
Even if you do not have minor children to consider or you do not have family members you need to provide for, a will can prove crucial in establishing what happens to your finances and your property after your death. You can use your will to specifically designate specific pieces of property to specific individuals. Some people choose to distribute specific heirlooms to members of the family they know will cherish them. Others may want to mention specific items that they want to go to friends who will appreciate them most.
You have worked hard for your money, and you may have specific memories or attachments associated with specific pieces of property. Through your will, you can clearly designate what you want to happen to all of them in the event of your death.
5. Your will can lay out the terms of a trust set up for your family members or loved ones.
Many people, especially wealthy individuals, may choose to set up a trust for their family members. Often, a trust can lay out how you want the money to be distributed in order to protect that inheritance for as long as possible. For example, you might choose to set up the trust so that your minor children receive their inheritance on their 18th, 21st, or 25th birthdays, when they will have a better idea of what they want to do with their lives. You might also choose to designate money in the trust for a specific purpose: a child’s wedding, for example. Your will can lay out the terms of that trust and help ensure that your family members understand the conditions under which they can access those funds.
Putting together a will is an incredibly important step that can help protect the ones you leave behind after your death. We know estate planning can be difficult. Having a Wilmington estate planning attorney on your side can help. To get started, call us at 910-509-7287 or click here to speak with your North Carolina estate planning lawyer.
The information provided herein does not constitute legal advice and is provided for informational purposes only.