Why Do You Need a Will?

Many people question the need for a Will. A Will is a legal document that ensures that your personal wishes regarding the distribution of your assets are followed. It is a means by which you may allocate your estate among relatives, friends and/or charities in whatever fashion or proportion you yourself elect. Wills are also flexible instruments in that they can be changed at any time to reflect present circumstances and testamentary wishes. Without such a document, state law - inflexible and impersonal - prevails.

Without a Will, for example, a distant but unknown relative would have a more legitimate claim on your estate than your oldest friend. A Will allows you to provide for that friend, if that is your choice.

Wills also permit you to make specific provisions for such special instances as elderly parents or disabled children or siblings, provisions that will not exist under anonymous state law were you to die intestate. You may also determine how your bequests are distributed, e.g., outright, or in trust until a child or grandchild attains a specific age.

Further, Wills allow you to appoint an executor whom you trust (frequently a spouse or child) to carry out your testamentary wishes, rather than having a court name an unknown administrator with no knowledge of either you or your intents. Again, the absence of a Will creates a vacuum in which your wishes are unknown and unrecognized.

Of particular concern to those with children under the age of majority, a Will provides an opportunity to appoint a guardian of the person and property of such minor children. In other words, you can name the relatives or friends to whom you entrust your children. Absent a Will, the Court will likely appoint a close relative, but there is no guarantee that this relative shares your views on child-rearing, let alone such personal values as religion.

A Will also enables you to decide who will bear the burden of inevitable estate taxes - the estate itself or your beneficiaries. A consultation with an estate attorney can provide additional information about other inheritance techniques such as trusts and insurance policies which will help you anticipate events that may be of concern to you. As one example, assume that one of your children is in a troubled marriage, and you want to ensure that the spouse does not receive any benefit from your estate. An estate attorney can help you with provisions that will bequeath assets to your child, but bypass a spouse in favor of your grandchildren.

We therefore suggest that those of you without Wills consider your estate planning needs, and see how your testamentary wishes might be adversely affected in the absence of such a document. Those of you who already have Wills may wish to review them to ensure that they accord with current law and with your present situation and intents. Since different individuals and families have different estate planning needs, we suggest that you discuss with us whether a Living Trust might be another effective instrument to be used in your estate plans.

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