When you die without a will or intestate, your estate will be tied up in court before it even goes through probate. This is to determine how the estate will be handled and who will be responsible for managing the distribution of your assets. If you take the time to create a will, you can ensure your final wishes will be respected.
Determine the Custody of Minor Children
If you have children who are not yet 18 years of age or older, a will becomes an immediate necessity. If you die without a will, the courts will choose a guardian for your children, and they may not choose the best person to love and nurture them. A will allows you to choose a guardian you trust with the care and upbringing of your children.
Choose an Executor
The courts can also choose someone to serve as the executor of your estate if you don’t have a will at the time of your death. This is another decision you’ll want to make for yourself. The executor carries a heavy responsibility in handling your estate throughout the probate process. Your executor should be someone you trust to take on these tasks with integrity and earnestness. They will have to inventory your assets, liquidate enough assets to pay off your debts and distribute the remaining assets in accordance with your will. Choosing a trustworthy loved one is the best way to ensure your final wishes are respected, and your family is protected.
Determine How Your Assets Will Be Distributed
In your will, you’ll have the opportunity to determine how your assets are to be divided. This becomes especially complicated if you have been married more than once or if you have children from previous relationships. You can also determine who is to be excluded from receiving assets from your estate. For example, if you are divorced, you can specify that your assets are not to be redirected towards your former spouse.
When you’re ready to create an estate plan, consulting an attorney is the best way to get started. While you can download a simple will that you can fill out, most people’s estate plans are more complex. A lawyer can help you create a plan that will be legally binding and will allow you to choose how your estate is handled.