Creating a will is an important aspect of every adult’s life. It is a common misconception that a will is only needed for older individuals and those who are sick or terminally ill. However, a will should be in place for individuals of all ages to protect them, their assets, and their loved ones in the event of an unexpected tragedy. Adults who do not yet have a will in place are urged to speak with a professional as soon as possible to discuss the legal implications, recommended considerations, and necessary components of creating and maintaining a will.
What Is a Will?
A will is a legal document that specifies and discusses the inheritance of important belongings of the individual holding the will after he or she passes away. The will can include items such as real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, jewelry, and any other property that an individual may possess. A will is a flexible type of document, as it can be customized to meet the needs and requests of the will holder. For example, a will can simply declare that one individual is to inherit all of the deceased’s belongings, or it can divide belongings between a number of individuals based on a number of factors and stipulations.
Importance of a Will
It is critical for all adults to create and maintain a will. This is especially important for parents, as a will may be sole determinant of how the surviving children will be cared and provided for. A will may discuss who takes guardianship over underage children until they reach legal adulthood. It may also appoint a trustee or guardian who is responsible for managing property and financial assets until children are legally capable of managing these items on their own.
Many individuals who are creating a will wish to appoint an executor. An executor is essentially the individual who will be responsible for settling the estate of the deceased will holder. The executor works to pay off debts and taxes while ensuring that the remainder of the deceased’s estate and belongings are granted to their appropriate recipients as indicated by the will. The executor of a will may be an individual over the age of 18 who is not a convicted felon, accountant, lawyer, or financial consultant. The executor may also be someone who was close with the deceased, such as a spouse, relative, adult child, or friend.
Duties of the executor may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Distributing and appraising the assets of the will holder
- Taking inventory of the belongings, finances, and property of the will holder
- Following and fulfilling the wishes detailed in the will
Risks of Will Absence
When individuals fail to create a will, family, friends, and other survivors may experience increased difficulty in settling matters after the death of their loved one. The primary issue that occurs from the absence of a will is that family members may have no control over how the deceased’s assets and finances are distributed after death. When the individual has no will to direct the distribution of these items, the court will determine how assets will be divided based on local and state laws. In many cases, these laws may not function in the best interest of those who are related to or otherwise close with the deceased. Essentially, this ultimately contributes to additional hardship during a time that is already emotionally and mentally difficult for many to endure.
Other Will Issues
Without a will, expenses, fees, and taxes may considerably devalue the deceased’s estate. A lack of a will typically also causes an increase in the time it takes for the deceased’s assets to be distributed and allocated. This may result in unnecessary hardship for friends, family, and other heirs. Without the creation of a will, special wishes and desires of the deceased such as charitable contributions and donations will not be fulfilled.
“10 Things You Should Know About Writing a Will – Assets, Inheritance – AARP.” AARP. N.p., 1 May 2012. Web. 10 June 2014. <http://www.aarp.org/money/estate-planning/info-09-2010/ten_things_you_should_know_about_writing_a_will.html>.
“Writing a Will.” USA.gov: The U.S. Government’s Official Web Portal. N.p., 5 June 2014. Web. 10 June 2014. <http://www.usa.gov/topics/money/personal-finance/wills.shtml>.