Seniors and Estate Planning – 6 Reasons for Having a Will
For a brief period of time, I was in the Boy Scouts. I’ve forgotten exactly how many merit badges I earned or even what rank I attained, but I do remember the leaders were always big on preparation. Well, the same can be said about having a will. You need to prepare, or the consequences will be far from what you intended. Would it surprise you to know that 63% of Americans do not have a will and of those who do, 9% are not up to date? Kate Ashford, a freelance journalist specializing in financial matters and consumer trends, cited a survey by USLegalWills.com. They not only posted these findings but also reported that only half of seniors have one that is up to date.
When I read the report, I wasn’t surprised, I was mortified. I’m sure the majority of you reading this have an up to date will and know how important it is to have your affairs in order. Dying without one opens the door to a host of lawsuits, legal wrangling and the possibility of the state disposing of your estate in a way you might not have intended. There are a host of reasons for having a will. Today, we will look at six of them.
- You decide how your assets are divided and doled out – Stace Caseria, a freelance journalist, writing for Mass Mutual, states that a will gives the writer legal protection as to how assets are to be divided. It doesn’t completely stop an heir or someone else from suing, but it does show intent.
- Less time in probate – Mary Randolph, JD, attorney and probate expert, shares that not everything will have to be probated, but some things will. Generally, this is decided by state law. For a variety of reasons, probate can drag on for many years. As a general rule, no matter the size of the estate, it is best to put it in writing.
- You choose the executor – Jim Miller, the founder of The Savvy Senior and syndicated columnist, states that naming an executor may be the most important thing in writing your will. “Picking the right executor,” he states, “can help ensure the prompt, accurate distribution of your possessions with a minimum of family friction.”
- You choose who cares for minor children – Choosing a legal guardian for your minor children is no easy task. Julie Ann Garber, J. D., an attorney with over 25 years of legal and trust experience, writing for The Balance, lists eight things to consider in choosing a guardian, including the guardian’s age, financial resources as well as religious, moral and political beliefs.
- Ability to disinherit – Betsy Simmons Hannibal, attorney and specialist in estate planning, suggests the simplest way to disinherit someone is to just not mention them in your will.
- Minimize estate taxes – Findlawcom, an online legal resource, lists ten ways a will can be used to reduce any taxes your estate might incur.
As you see, having a will is important. There are, I’m sure, many other reasons to have a will, but no matter the size of the estate, there are things that have to be taken into consideration. Should you die without a will, the state’s laws are followed and the assets divided accordingly. This is not a course I recommend, because your intent will not be considered. Best to put your wishes in writing.