Do I Really Need a Will?
A Simple Will
The first question that comes to mind when the issue of preparing a last will and testament crops up is “Do I really need a will?” There is only one answer to that question, and that is absolutely “YES!” Otherwise, all your assets (except those from your life insurance and retirement plan) will be seized by the government if no will is found when you pass away.
If you are single and you have minimal personal, it isn’t absolutely necessary to prepare a will (and certainly not if you don’t wish any beneficiary to claim those assets, no matter how little). It's an entirely different story when you have significant assets (or accumulate assets upon death --- like a wrongful death lawsuit award). So, it makes sense to execute a will just so you can visualize what will happen to anything you own after you pass away. You can also state your preferences for guardianship of children, and caretaker for pets.
A will basically gives you the chance to consider the facts of your mortality. Once you pass away, first... your estate assets will be used to pay off your debts. A will allows you to state your intentions as to what happens to the rest of your assets. You name specific allocations, or how your assets are to be divided.
NOTE: "A 'WILL' should actually be called a 'WANT'", as noted by Professional Trustee Jay Lashlee. He further explains, "The court actually often determines what WILL happen, after considering other interested parties, claims (right or wrong -- you are not available to dispute wrongful claims). Often the proper heirs will negotiate with unfair claims just to settle things, perhaps completely contradicting the terms of your will. The best way to get a plan that REALLY 'WILL' HAPPEN, is to create a trust."
That said... A will allows you to do the following:
1. Name the executor, who is the person who will carry out the terms of the will, thereby releasing your executor from the need to post a bond. Be sure to select an executor whom you think will outlive you. Hence it’s a good idea to pick someone much younger than you.
2. Select the guardian who will take care of your minor child if the child's other parent is unable to care for him or her.
The court is the one that ultimately decides the custody issue for your child, such as whether the individual or individuals you have specified are fit to be a guardian. Significantly; the court would like to know your preference before making a decision on the matter.
There are always simple, two-page or so “prefab” wills available over the internet, or drugstore, or office supply store. A
simple will may not be appropriate if the total value of your estate exceeds estate tax exemptions. In most states, this exemption is about $675,000 to $1,000,000.
If the total value of your estate, plus the total value of taxable gifts made during your lifetime, exceeds the amount above, this excess could be taxed at a high rate. It may exceed 40%. An estate this large certainly calls for better tax planning and consulting with estate planning professionals.
Wills produced with online will forms are not designed to help reduce estate taxes. Generally speaking, complex situations call for consulting with an estae professional or attorney. But before you do that, it is still a good idea to come up with something quick and easy until you find the time to address more complex issues. Taking this step gets you partially protected, and starts you on the journey to a more elaborate solution.
Making a simple will online can even offer useful tips before you even get around to having your will done. Many sites provide you with very useful FAQs and sample wills to give you a feel of how to do yours right.
Here are some things you can’t include in a will, for your guidance:
1. Your will cannot specify the beneficiaries of life insurance policies, retirement plans, even annuities. The beneficiaries for these funds are setup by filing with the insurance companies. So it is a good idea to review the beneficiaries on file for these plans before making your will to make sure that all the bases are covered.
2. Last wishes are not part of a Last Will and Testament. Last wishes allow you to enter your personal choices regarding burial or cremation and any other last requests you might have which you finalize into "Requested Final Arrangements".
And finally.... What makes a will legal?
1. The person whose will is being made must be an adult.
2. He must be of sound mind.
3. The will must be typewritten or computer-generated (hand-written or holographic wills are not valid in all states).
4. The will must specifically state that it is your will.
5. The will must be signed and dated by the owner of the will in front of the required number of witnesses.
There may be other legal requirements needed depending on which state or country you are in (or from, or where assets are located) so be sure to check this out. Of course, the bigger the assets or properties, the more you should consider legal assistance and experience. Usually, we cannot predict our death, but preparing a will certainly enables us to plan what happens afterwards.