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Plan Your Future Now: Understand the Importance of a Will

Wills are not just for the elderly or wealthy; it’s a tool to protect everyday people. Learn about the structure of a will and why you need one.

We hear it all the time–do I really need a will? The short answer is, yes, you need a will! We get it, this task is probably not at the top of your to-do list. You have to set aside time to gather essential documents, rehash old family wounds, or contemplate what life might be like when you are gone. For many, that is uncomfortable. But proper, proactive planning allows you to easily protect your assets and explain how you want your family to manage your estate after you pass away.

Here is how wills are typically structured and why having a will is critical.

How is a Will Structured?

A will is not only for naming assets. It serves a more significant role in creating a structure that will make the probate process easier for the family member or friend tasked with closing out your estate and distributing the assets left. 

  1. Appointment of an executor: An executor is responsible for carrying out the instructions in the will and distributing the assets to the beneficiaries.
  2. Beneficiaries: A will typically specifies who will receive the assets and property and in what proportions. This can include family members, friends, and charitable organizations.
  3. Guardianship of minor children: If the testator has children who are minors, a will can name a guardian to care for them if both parents pass away.
  4. Funeral and burial arrangements: A will may include instructions regarding the testator’s wishes for their funeral, burial, or cremation.
  5. Debts and taxes: A will can provide instructions for how the testator’s debts and taxes should be paid from the estate.
  6. Personal property: A will can specify how the testator’s personal property, such as jewelry, art, or other sentimental items, should be distributed.

Do I Need a Will if I Don’t Have a Ton of Assets?

Some people think they don’t need a will because they don’t own a significant number of assets. The reality is that you own more than you think, and when you die, everything that you have in your name that you pay money to or own will need to be managed and closed out through a probate process. 

All of your assets (big or small) and your debts will be combined to make up your estate and will go through the probate process. For most people, this is unavoidable, but it can be made easier with a will and by naming an executor so the court doesn’t decide for you.

Here are common assets that can be included in your will:

  • Checking and Savings Accounts: If you do not have a joint owner on your account or a named beneficiary, it is important to name an executor. This allows them to pay your creditors, you can save them a lot of work by naming them in your will than having the court decide.
  • Vehicles: Your vehicle is considered an asset and personal property.
  • Furniture and Personal Belongings: Everything you own must be given away, sold or thrown away. If you have sentimental items, photos, critical documents, electronics, digital files, or family heirlooms, this is an excellent place to list out who will receive each item.
  • Settlements: If you are in the middle of a settlement, there might be a right to proceed with your claim that will pass to your estate.

What Happens if I Die Without a Will?

Dying without a will is called dying “intestate”. The consequences of dying without a will vary depending on the laws of the state in which the person lived and the deceased’s owned property. In most cases, you will have no control over the distribution of your assets, and the probate process can be long and costly, which can subtract from what is left of your assets and put unnecessary stress and financial strain on your loved ones.

Dying without a will is a surefire way to add a sting to the throes of grief. Clear communication can help ease tensions and allow your family to focus on moving forward instead of trying to piece together a puzzle with missing parts. With proper planning, this situation can be avoided. A will allows the testator to leave nothing to the imagination and lay out all the information to make the job easier for the executor and family members.

Mobile Estate Planning Made Easy

The process of getting a legitimate will in place for you and your family can be overwhelming, confusing, and costly, but it doesn’t have to be! At Assurest, we offer simple, affordable solutions for your legal needs and make the process easy by coming to you for the conversation—meeting you in your home or, if you prefer, virtually or over the phone.

Serving the Greater Richmond area and beyond, our experienced and trustworthy professionals simplify the process using clear, understandable language free of legal jargon and provide flat-rate packages, so you’re never surprised by the bill. Contact us today and rest assured that your affairs are in order and your loved ones are protected.

Disclaimer: This material is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  Responses to inquiries, whether by email, telephone, or other means, do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create or imply the existence of an attorney-client relationship.

Written By
Matthew Reinaker
February 27, 2023