If you don't currently have
a will, your loved ones may not receive the assets you wish
to leave them in the event of your death.
A will is a legal document
that sets forth your wishes regarding the distribution of
your property and the care of any minor children. A properly
executed Will allows you to choose those individuals or
organizations who will receive your property at death. It
is also a statement of your desires as to who will be the
guardian of your minor children and who will be responsible
for distributing your assets (i.e., the executor of the
In short, a Will allows you
- Speak when you're no longer
able to speak
- Provide for the welfare
of family and/or friends
- Pass along your assets
- Arrange for the efficient
management of your property
But, if you die without a
Will (i.e., intestate), the state takes your place and directs
the disposition of your assets. The state intestacy laws
set out highly standardized and rigid rules that control
who will succeed to ownership of your property at death.
Although these succession statutes attempt to be fair and
equitable, they more than likely will not provide for the
distribution you prefer. For example, absent a Will:
- If you have minor children,
your spouse may need to go to court to be appointed guardian
of the children's property. This may also require posting
bond, annual accountings and judicial proceedings to act
on behalf of the minor.
- A simultaneous death of
husband and wife could entrust the state with the care
and support of minor children.
- Generally, except for what
statutorily passes to your surviving spouse, your children
share equally in your estate. The impersonal nature of
state intestacy laws deprives you of the opportunity to
provide a greater share, for example, to a disabled daughter
than to her healthy brother.
- State law may divide your
property between your surviving spouse and children contrary
to your wishes.
- An individual may not leave
property to charity.
- If there are no heirs,
property may pass to the state rather than to friends