Why Do I Need A Will?

01/11/2011

Why Do I Need a Will?

by Glenn M. Wall, Attorney at Law


            While most adults know they should have a last will and testament, many never seem to get around to having one prepared. The only way to protect your loved ones and prevent unfortunate family disputes is to have your will prepared, signed, and properly witnessed. Verbal declarations of your intentions have no bearing in a court of law.

WHY HAVE A WILL?
            A last will and testament is a legal document in which you express your final thoughts and wishes and give instructions detailing what should happen with your property after you are gone. Although no one wants to think about accidents, disasters, or diseases, having a will provides important protection to your loved ones.
            First, a will ensures that your property is distributed to your loved ones based on your wishes. If you die without a will (known as dying intestate), a court will decide who gets your property based on court rules, which have nothing to do with your desires or what is in the best interests of your family. For example, if you die intestate, your children are equal heirs with your surviving spouse and as such are entitled to an equal share of your probate estate along with your spouse, even if you had wished that your spouse received all of your property.
            If you have a child or children, your will is the legal document in which you name who will be their guardian. This important decision is best made by a child’s parents, who are usually the best equipped to make this decision because they know the character, personality, and values of potential guardians far better than a judge, who decides the issue if you die intestate.
            A will also allows you to create a trust so that loved ones do not have direct control over money or property at a time or age when they are not yet ready to assume such a responsibility, which can be an important consideration when you think of the fast cars and video games that young teens enjoy purchasing.
            Lastly, a properly drawn last will and testament can help reduce the taxes owed by your estate, leaving more money and property for loved ones.

WHEN SHOULD I GET A WILL?
            While all adults should have a will, many first have their wills prepared when they get married and/or have children. Many wills are also written when people buy their first home as part of putting their financial affairs in order.
            Wills should also be reviewed periodically to make sure that they still reflect the wishes of the person making the will. Divorce, marriage, the birth or adoption of children, death of a beneficiary, a move to a new state, or simply the passage of time are all good reasons to have your will reviewed and updated.

WHAT IS AN ADVANCE DIRECTIVE FOR HEALTHCARE?
            An Advance Directive for Healthcare is a legal document where you actually appoint a loved one to make the decision to terminate death-delaying or life-sustaining procedures in the event you become incapacitated and cannot make those decisions. More and more people are having advance directives prepared so that loved ones have instructions on such difficult issues as whether you would or would not like to be kept alive on a life support system.

WHAT ARE DURABLE POWERS OF ATTORNEY?
            Powers of Attorney for financial matters are essential as part of your overall estate plan. They allow an agent you name to make financial decisions or carry our day-to-day tasks for you should you become incompetent or otherwise incapacitated. Without a properly drawn Power of Attorney, your loved ones will be required to seek court guardianship to handle your affairs, which is expensive and time-consuming.

THE TIME TO ACT IS NOW
            Although you may not want to think about the unfortunate side of life, the need to protect those that you love is very important and should be considered..

Glenn M. Wall is an attorney in Suwanee, Georgia. He has helped clients with planning estates, drafting wills, and creating powers of attorney since 1985.