Many people begin the process of creating their Will after getting married or as they start to have children, wanting to ensure their dependents are taken care of to the best of their ability. What about those who choose a child-free life or remain single?
Do You Need a Will If You’re Child-Free?
The answer is simple: you should always maintain a valid, legal will no matter if you have kids or not. Keep reading to discover why people, including those who are child-free, should have a will during any stage of life.
What is a Will?
A Will is a legal document that is created and written while a person is still alive that clearly spells out how their assets should be divided. A Will is one, if not the most common, estate planning tools utilized today. These make clear exactly what your intentions are for your more significant financial obligations like a home, car, and bank accounts and sentimental items like family heirloom jewelry, collectibles, and even digital assets.
KEEP IN MIND: A will does not stop the probate process – a way for creditors and other beneficiaries to be made aware of your death and to settle any debts or obligations that are still outstanding.
What Happens if You Die Without a Will in Place?
If you pass away without creating a Will, the term is called Intestate. Your assets are divided between heirs assigned based on your state’s law. These heirs are almost always family members (often referred to as Kin) and are ranked in order of how close they are related to you.
If you do not have living parents or siblings, your estate may default to a distant relative rather than a close friend or charity of your choosing.
Suppose you have a romantic partner that you haven’t legally married upon your death. They will not be designated as an heir in most cases, even if you’ve listed them as a beneficiary in life insurance policies or retirement plans you may carry.
Having a valid Will drafted will help those closest to you avoid costly and time consuming legal battles in probate since your wishes will be clearly outlined.
What Happens to Your Pet When You Pass Away?
Pets are a part of the family. Animals like parrots and tortoises can live a very long life, often outliving their owner. You can easily add a pet clause to your Will to make sure your beloved companions continue to receive the care they deserve and have been provided with prior to your passing. While you can’t leave money directly to a pet, you can direct money to be given to a family member or friend with the sole purpose of pet care costs.
Petbest.com offers another alternative: “Some pet owners may want to create a trust to ensure the care of their pet by allocating money specifically for the care of the pet after the owner’s death. An estate lawyer would need to be consulted to create a trust in this circumstance…A trust provides the maximum assurance that a pet will be cared for in accordance with an owner’s wishes.”
Should You Write Your Own Will?
There are websites and templates available online that allow you to “draft your own” Will. While these documents can be helpful in guiding you through estate planning, keep in mind that they often do not take into consideration your state’s specific probate laws. DIY estate planning kits can save you money now but may end up costing your loved ones legal fees to fix mistakes down the line.
A Will can be typed or handwritten, but you’ll need to review your state’s procedures to ensure it is signed correctly in order for it to be considered valid. You may need witnesses or specific language for your state to recognize the document, so be sure to do thorough research or have an attorney review what you have written.
Is a Will Enough Protection for my Assets?
A Will allows an executor to carry out your wishes upon your death, but what happens if you become incapacitated by an illness or accident? Many choose to create a living trust to protect their business and other assets in case of this very scenario. A trust is “funded” by adding your assets to it, like real estate titles, bank accounts, and stocks. These funded assets will not be considered during probate court (but will be subject to creditors if money is owed), which is a considerable advantage over the standard Will.
Tanko Law has a team of experienced lawyers who specialize in estate planning and probate matters. We are ready to guide you every step of the way, including drafting and administering wills and trusts, assisting you with probate court, and offering sound guidance so that you are well-informed and can confidently make decisions about your assets and estate. Call (406) 257-3711 or leave us a message on our contact page to begin the process of drafting your will and gaining peace of mind.