I get asked that question regularly and the answer is always the same: YES you do!
Why do you need a will? Here are the top 3 reasons:
Avoiding probate court. What does that mean? It means that when you become an angel, someone has to take responsibility for your assets, property and liabilities. With a will, you determine who you want to get the house, cars, bank accounts, toy collections, grandma’s vintage furniture, the old tractor out in the shed that you never quite finished restoring, etc… I think you get the point.
Over the years, you have accumulated lots of items and now, they need to be given to someone. If you have a will, you designate who you want to have what. Without a will, the probate court will take over and hand those items out to whoever it decides should get it. There are fees to having the court do this so often times, your assets will be sold to pay for the cost of the court.
Secondly, a will reduces hurting family and friends feelings. If you have a favorite niece and want to make sure she gets a certain item, put her in the will with the exact items she should get. Then, there will be no question from other family members as to what your plans are. If you leave it up to the heirs to decide how to split your estate up, there will most likely be some people left out that you wanted to receive certain heirlooms.
It is ok to split up the estate evenly between certain people, however, you need to be very specific about where certain items go and to whom. We have 3 boys, and we have directed our will to share 34% of our estate to the oldest and 33% each to the other two. There are also other people that we want to have something special and we can ensure they get that both by having a verbal conversation with our kids and including our wishes in a will.
Thirdly, to minimize taxes! When you have an estate, anything left in the estate after your passing may be subject to estate tax. This can be reduced or maybe even eliminated by having a will prepared ahead of time. This can be the difference between leaving your family a large inheritance or the burden of a tax bill.
Of course, I recommend that you find a lawyer in your area that specializes in writing a will, and get your plans down on paper. Then, follow up that meeting with an estate planning specialist to make sure you are covering all the bases financially. Between these two, you should leave your family in the best shape possible.
Naturally, all life insurance policies have a beneficiary designation so this person or persons will receive the death benefit. Since this is a contract with the insurance company, these assets are not subject to your will. In other words, the life insurance contract trumps the will.
For further reading, these are some good resources to get you started: http://estate.findlaw.com/wills/top-ten-reasons-to-have-a-will.html and here is one for estate planning http://www.elderlawanswers.com/10-reasons-to-create-an-estate-plan-now-1076
Please take the time to see a lawyer and have your will prepared as soon as possible. Don’t put this off.
Also, check your life insurance policy to make sure the beneficiary information is correct and up to date. I can help you with this if you need me to, just give me a call and we can review it together.