5 Reasons Why YOU Need a Will

Wills serve several functions, and nearly every adult should have one. If any of the below criteria apply to you, you should have a will:

  1. If you have minor children, and you want a say as to who will care for them upon passing, you need a will. A Will enables you to nominate a guardian to care for and manage the finances for a minor or disabled child. You can even bifurcate the custody and financial duties and select separate persons to handle each. Without a will, a court will select someone to serve as guardian for your children, and it might not be who you would have chosen.

  2. If you want to give your assets away differently from how the state would do it, you need a will. Each state has its own "intestacy laws". These determine who your legal heirs are. Many people are surprised to find that the intestacy laws don't mimic their wishes. For example, if you live in Maryland and die married and childless, your spouse only receives about ½ of your estate. You can get around these default rules with a will.

  3. If you want to designate who will be in charge of your estate, you need a will. States generally prioritize who has the right to serve as Personal Representative (or executor) of a decedent's estate. Most people want to choose a financially responsible individual to carry out the administration of his or her estate, and this person may not be who has top priority under the law. If you do not name someone in your will, the Court will appoint someone.

  4. If you want to leave assets to persons with special needs, either because they are minors, have money problems, or are disabled, you need a will. By using a Will, you can create customized trusts for your beneficiaries. These trusts can hold assets subject to your wishes, so that an individual doesn't receive them until he or she reaches a certain age, or so that they aren't reachable by creditors, or so they don't disqualify the individual from government assistance. Beneficiary trusts serve many purposes, and you can create them in your will.

  5. If you made a will years ago, but haven't updated it in over 3 years, or your financial or family situation has changed, you may need a new will. You should never try to update your will on your own, because the changes aren't legal unless they are executed properly. If you think your will might be out of date, you should review it with an attorney.

This article is not legal advice. If you want legal advice, you should consult with a lawyer.