How important is a will?

POSTED ON: June 10, 2022
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Without a valid and legal will, it can open the door to family fighting or significant court costs to settle an estate.

The Seattle Times’s recent article entitled “Do you have a will? Without an estate plan, families can struggle to sort it out” advises you to put your wishes in writing, so your estate is handled responsibly at the end of your life.

It’s the best thing that you can do to help your family and help eliminate fighting in the future.

A will can help with the most routine aspects of settling someone’s affairs or provide additional protection for more rare events.

If a person dies without a will, they are said to have died intestate. When this occurs, the deceased's estate is handed over to the local probate court to identify creditors, beneficiaries and allocate assets.

Property typically goes to a surviving spouse first, then to any children, then to extended family and descendants, following the state’s probate laws. If no family can be found, property typically reverts to the state.

You can also ask an experienced estate planning attorney about a living trust.

A trust is a legal document that can set out plans for someone while they’re still alive and after death, including instructions for how to divide up all assets, including property, businesses and investments.

While most of the instructions should be covered in the living trust, writing a will can also serve as a back-up document to lay out how property and other assets should be transferred. In addition, wills used in conjunction with a living trust commonly designate that trust as the beneficiary of the will. Hence, such wills are referred to as pour-over wills.

A will that’s entirely in someone’s own handwriting — not anyone else’s — that’s signed and dated may be valid, depending on your state of residence. However, it can be disputed in court if there are questions about its authenticity. People who handwrite their wills risk leaving out or forgetting heirs or assets they want to identify, if it’s not checked over by a professional.

Reference: Seattle Times (May 16, 2022) “Do you have a will? Without an estate plan, families can struggle to sort it out”

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