There is no doubt that a will is an extremely important legal document.
After all, it’s the document ensuring that an individual’s wishes on how to manage his or her assets and affairs upon death will be carried out to the letter.
However, there seems to be a certain degree of disinterest among many Americans whenever the idea of drafting one comes up.
According to a survey conducted by eldercare resource directory Caring.com, nearly 60 percent of middle-aged Americans do not have a will.
No one really knows the reasons why so many people haven’t even thought about preparing all-important estate planning documents just yet.
Perhaps it’s the thinking that wills are only for wealthy people, an idea no doubt perpetuated onscreen by countless Hollywood soap operas and other productions. Many probably think they don’t need it since they don’t have significant real estate investments or financial assets to leave to anyone in the first place.
It’s also possible that they balk at any talk that pertains to the inevitable. It’s not uncommon for many people to find discussing steps to take upon their death a bit morbid and shush anyone who brings up the topic.
Some married couples may even forgo the idea of preparing a will because they don’t have any children to leave anything to anyway.
Here’s something to keep in mind, though: As long as you have affairs that need settling, a positive net worth with assets like cash, property, and other belongings, and a desire to have a say about who gets them after you pass on, you have to have a will.
Here are five reasons you should have a will whether you have kids or not.
1. You (And Your Executor) Will Be In Control
One of the biggest drawbacks of dying without a will is that you will have zero control over the handling of your assets and affairs.
Choosing an executor or personal representative to take responsibility for managing your estate when you pass on is part of the process of preparing a will. Not having a will means you have not appointed anyone you have confidence in to do things like settling bills and taxes and distributing your assets upon your death.
If this is the case, it’s the court that will choose your executor. While the court’s selection process will be thorough, it’s still entirely possible for the judge to pick someone you don’t want managing your estate for you.
So prepare a will now, and be in full control of the entire process even when you’re gone.
2. Your Assets Will Be Distributed In Accordance With Your Wishes
There are inheritance laws you can’t skirt around, like those that dictate that you must leave your spouse 50% of your assets amassed during your marriage if you live in community property states, namely, Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.
But what if you want to leave certain possessions to people other than your spouse? How about your children, if you have them?
While you generally have no legal obligation to leave your children anything when you pass away, you can provide for them however you want—and in no uncertain terms at that—in a will if you so wish.
By preparing a will, you can leave specific properties or belongings to anyone you’d like, be it your children, relatives, friends, or even the waitress at the diner who gives you coffee refills without being asked.
3. It Sorts Everything Out
Dying without a will is going to make the lives of the loved ones you leave behind quite stressful.
This is especially true if you have a considerable estate, and there are multiple parties that feel they are entitled to any or even all of it.
Choosing who should act as your personal representative could even contribute to conflict within your family, since you don’t have a will and you haven’t appointed anyone as executor of your estate.
You can expect your grieving family to have no choice but to face legal battles that could take some time to resolve and use up so much of their time, energy, and resources.
With a will, sorting everything out will be so much easier for your loved ones because all of your wishes on how to handle your assets and affairs are clearly indicated in it.
4. You Can Name A Guardian For Your Children
No one knows when death will be coming for them, and it’s this uncertainty that makes parents worry about the future of their children. The foremost question in their minds would be, “Who will take care of our kids when we die?
Even if you’re not looking forward to making a will to distribute assets or property, you still should prepare one if you have minor children so you can nominate a guardian to care for them in the event of your death.
If you and your spouse die without a will, it’s the court that will have to decide who becomes guardian to your children.
While you can be sure that the court will be as thorough as it can be when appointing a guardian for your young children, there is no assurance that the court will choose the exact person you want to act as guardian for your kids.
5. It Gives You Peace of Mind
Having a will in place will help ease your worries, as all the intentions you spelled out in the document will have to be respected and carried out even when you’re no longer there.
With a will, you know that the people closest to your heart will receive what is essentially your gift and legacy to them. Knowing that for certain will give you peace of mind for the rest of your days.
If you still don’t have a will, better prepare one now. You can do it DIY-style, but it’s always best to consult an estate planning attorney to make sure everything is in order.
Author Bio: Lauren Summers is the Content Marketing Strategist for Miller, Miller & Canby, one of the most respected law firms in Montgomery County, and the Washington, DC metropolitan area. The firm focuses on five core areas of practice: Land Development, Real Estate, Litigation, Business and Tax, and Trusts and Estates Law. In her spare time, she reads books and plays board games with her husband and two kids.