A will is the most basic of all estate planning documents. A Last Will and Testament outlines, in writing, how you want your final affairs to be carried out. This type of document covers important areas such as who you want your assets and property to go to, when and under what conditions your property should be distributed to your heirs, and if you have minor children at the time of your passing, who you want to raise your children in the event of a worst-case scenario.
Do I Really Need a Will?
According to AARP, approximately 60% of American adults do not have a will, and there is a lot of debate out there about who really needs one. Many people have the mistaken notion that wills are only for the wealthy, and that those with more limited means can get by without one. But there are other reasons besides money that a person should have a will.
It could be argued that every adult should have a Last Will and Testament. Otherwise, important decisions about their final affairs will be made by the court, and not always in accordance with their wishes. That being said, there are certain categories of individuals who have even more compelling reasons to make a will:
Individuals Who are Married
If you are married, you might assume that your spouse gets everything even if you die without a will. This may or may not be true, depending on your state of residence and other specific circumstances.
In Alabama, for example, if you die without a will, your estate will be subject to the state’s complex intestate succession laws. Under these laws, if you have a spouse but no children and your parents are no longer alive, this is the only circumstance in which your spouse receives your entire estate.
If you have children who also belong to your spouse, your spouse inherits the first $50,000 on your estate, then splits the rest with the children. If the children do not belong to your spouse, then it is a straight 50/50 split. If you have a spouse and parents but no children, your spouse gets the first $100,000 of your estate, and the rest is split 50/50 with your parents.
As you can see, there are a number of possible ways your property could be divided if you die without a Last Will and Testament, even if you are married. If you want your spouse to get everything, or you want to leave your assets to someone else, you need to make a will to ensure that this happens.
Individuals who Have Children
A lot of people who are married and even many who are not married have kids. As we talked about in the last point, having children will greatly impact the distribution of your assets under Alabama’s intestate laws. If you want to make sure your kids get your property only after your spouse and they do not split it with them, you had better put that in writing. Aside from that, if you have minor children, you should be the one making the decision about who raises them if you are no longer around. With a will, you can designate a guardian who will be responsible for raising your children. Without a will, this decision will be made by the court, and unfortunately, it will be made without your input.
Individuals with Assets
Even if you are not married and you do not have any kids, if you have a positive net worth, you should have a Last Will and Testament. This means a house with equity, money in savings, a retirement account, stock investments, anything. These assets need to be distributed when you die, and without a will, they will again be distributed in accordance with Alabama’s intestate laws. Under this scenario, if you have parents, they would get everything. If your parents are no longer alive, your siblings would get everything. If you have no living parents or siblings and there is no will, then things really get complicated. If you have any kind of net assets at all, it is best to take time to create a will to make it easier on your family and help ensure that your assets end up in the right hands.
Need Help Creating a Will? Contact Our Attorneys for Skilled Guidance
Virtually everyone should have a will, and your will should be drafted by an experienced attorney, rather than rolling the dice with one of those “fill-in-the-blank” forms online. At Davis, Bingham, Hudson & Buckner, P.C., we provide personalized guidance with the preparation of your Last Will and Testament and other estate planning needs in Alabama. We work closely with our clients, taking the time to listen and understand their unique needs and concerns, so we can ensure that your will is legally enforceable and drafted precisely in a way that fully addresses all important issues.
Call us today at 334-821-1908 to schedule an initial consultation. You may also message us online or stop by our Auburn office in person at your convenience.