No one likes to think about their own death, but it is important to make sure loved ones are provided for in case it happens. Anyone without a will should give it serious thought. Anyone with a will that needs changes, should do it now.
A legal will is one that the probate or Surrogates court will accept and put into effect. Probate is the process by which an estate is administered. In order for a Court to grant probate, it must be satisfied that the document sets out clearly how any assets are to be divided and that the Will was executed properly. When the court grants probate, an Executor is appointed to properly administer the estate.
A will is still critical to those who do not have much, as there might be personal items such as jewelry, books, or mementos that are to go to specific people. Having a will lays this all out and saves arguments later on. The will also states who you want to serve as executor. This should be the person who you trust will carry out your wishes.
Dying without a will mean a person has died intestate, meaning that State Law will decides who the beneficiaries are.
Examples of what could happen if a person dies without a will are:
- If a person dies without a spouse or children, but is survived by parents, the parents inherit any assets of the estate.
- If a person dies and is survived by a spouse, the whole estate goes to the spouse.
- If a person dies and has a spouse and children, the estate usually gets divided evenly between them.
- If a person dies and doesn’t have spouse, children or parents, but has brothers and sisters, the estate is divided equally among them.
There are a number of reasons why having a will is a good idea, including:
- It is one of the only ways to be sure that a person’s belongings, collected over the years, are given to the people the person wants them to. It helps provides security for the person’s family.
- Having a will transfers a person’s property to their heirs more easily.
- If a person has minor aged children, a guardian can be named and planning made for their living expenses and education.
- If a person remarries, a will protects members of both families. A second marriage usually cancels out a will made before the marriage.
- A former spouse can still inherit because a divorce does not automatically cancel a will. Updating a will regularly can prevent this.