Before anything else is done fifty cents [is to] be paid to my son-in-law to enable him to buy for himself a good stout rope with which to hang himself.” – author Garvey B. White, 1908
The primary function of a Will is that it is a revocable disposition of property intended to take effect on death.
Preparing a Will is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family.
It will provide legal protection to your spouse, children and assets, and will also ensure your estate is handled according to your wishes after you have passed on.
While each person’s situation varies, here are the top ten reasons to have a will.
1) Decide how your Estate is distributed
A will is a legally-binding document that lets you determine how you would like your assets to be handled upon your death. If you pass away without a Will, there is nothing protecting your assets to ensure that are distributed as you intended. Having a will helps minimize any family fights about your estate, and also determines who gets what and when from your estate.
2) Take care of your minor children
A Will allows you to make an informed decision about who should take care of your minor children. You can appoint a guardian and complete a “memorandum of wishes” document that will detail exactly how you would like them to be raised including education, religion, sporting activities and social activities. If you do not have a Will, the court will take it upon itself to choose among family members or a state-appointed guardian. Having a will allows you to appoint the person you want to raise your children or, better, make sure it is not someone you do not want to raise your children.
3) Avoid extended probate processes
All estates must go through a probate process, regardless of whether or not you have a Will. Having a Will significantly speeds up the probate process and informs the court how you would like your estate divided. Probate courts serve the purpose of “administering your estate”, and if you die without a Will (dying “intestate”), the court will decide how to divide your estate without your input. This can cause unnecessary delays and of course carries the risk of your estate being distributed in a way that is contrary to what you would like.
4) Minimise Estate Tax
Another reason to have a Will is because it allows you to minimize your estate taxes. The value of what you give away to family members or charity will reduce the value of your estate when it’s time to pay estate taxes.
5) Name your own executor
Executors make sure all your affairs are in order, including paying off bills, canceling your credit cards, canceling memberships and notifying the bank and other business establishments. Executors play the most important role in the administration of your estate, therefore you will want to appoint someone who is organized, honest and trust worthy. Sometimes the best person to be named executor of your estate may not be a family member so you should make sure you consider all options.
6) Disinherit undeserving people
You may wish to disinherit individuals who may otherwise stand to inherit your estate if you die without a Will. A Will specifically outlines how you would like your estate to be distributed, if you do not have one your estate may end up in the wrong hands or the hands of someone you specifically did not want it to be in. For example an ex-spouse with whom who had a bitter separation, your spouse’s new partner should they remarry, or the ex-spouse of one of your children if they get divorced after your death may end up inheriting your assets if you do not have a Will.
7) Gifts and donations
The ability to make gifts is a fantastic reason to have a will because it allows your legacy to live on and reflect your personal values and interests.
8) Avoid greater legal issues
If you die without a Will, part or all of your estate may pass to someone you did not intend. For example, if your child inherits your entire estate and their marriage breaks down, your estate will have formed part of the matrimonial assets, therefore in your Childs’ divorce, their ex-spouse may take half of their inheritance.
9) Change your will as life circumstances change
One of the best reasons to do a will is that it is a revocable instrument that you can change any time while you still have capacity. Life changes, such as births, deaths, and divorce, can create situations where changing your Will is necessary.
10) Life is uncertain
Procrastination and the unwillingness to accept death as part of life are common reasons for not having a will. Sometimes the realization that Wills are necessary comes too late – such as when an unexpected death or disability occurs. To avoid the added pressure on families during an already emotional time, make an appointment to get your Will organized.
“Where there’s a Will, there’s a way, so make sure you have a good Will before you go away for