A will serves several purposes. It gives you the power to distribute your possessions, according to your own wishes. It also lets you name who should take care of your children, if they are minors when you die, and of your pets, if you provide for them in the will.
Just because your wealth isn’t measured in billions, doesn’t mean you don’t need a will. Without one, explains Yahoo Finance’s recent article, “Do You Really Need a Will?” you’ll have no say in what happens once you pass away. There may also be less for your heirs to inherit. There will also be more legal costs and stress.
Each state has laws that pertain to the distribution of a person's estate, if they die without a will. These laws most likely won’t mesh with your personal desires. If you don't have a will, ask yourself why you don't. Perhaps you think you don't need one. However, more than likely you do. If you're putting off starting this important estate planning task, here are some things to consider.
Just about everybody needs a will, but you definitely should have one if you're married, you have minor children, you have real estate, or you have investments in the stock market. You should also have a will if you have possessions, such as cars, furniture, jewelry, paintings and computers … and who doesn't?
As far as your money and possessions, you probably have some thoughts as to who gets what. You may want to chip in on the education of some younger relatives or give specific pieces of jewelry to those who you know will appreciate them. If you have minor children, you probably have very definite ideas about who should be their guardians if you die.
With a will, you have control. Without a will, the state in which you live will distribute your assets according to its laws, regardless of your wishes.
After you pass away, there could be surprise money coming to you, and without a will, you have no control over where these funds go. Your estate could get some cash from returned security deposits, medical reimbursements, or refunds from utility companies. Furthermore, if you die in a car accident and there's an insurance settlement, you have no say who gets those funds, which could be substantial.
You also need to think about your pets, and who would be the best person to care for your animals. Talk with your Houston estate planning attorney about whether or not your state permits the creation of a pet trust, where you can set aside the money to pay for your pet’s care and designate a trustee to care for the pet.
Don’t neglect your digital afterlife. Some platforms have guidelines and a relatively simply way to allow you to name someone to close your accounts when you die. If you don’t provide a directive, the accounts may stay open forever or be shut down permanently. If you have business records, photographs or other materials stored online, your heirs will have to fight to gain access and control.
Reference: Yahoo Finance (July 21, 2019) “Do You Really Need a Will?”