Some of the most basic estate plans contain just a last will and testament. However, over half of Americans do not even have that. There are many reasons people put off estate planning, but most adults should at least have a will.
What can a will do?
A will is a legal document that allows you to convey your wishes for how your property and affairs will be handled after your death. Although many people have a general concept of wills from books and movies, some are still a little shaky about what wills can do.
With a will, the three main things you can do, include:
- Listing who you would like your assets to go to after you die
- Naming someone to take care of minor children
- Selecting someone to manage your final financial affairs
What happens without a will?
Without a will or another appropriate estate planning document, your property and affairs will be handled according to Washington's intestate succession laws. The court will determine who will inherit your possessions, appoint a guardian for your minor children, and appoint someone to manage your final financial affairs. However, if it is left up to the court to determine any of these things, you will not be able to influence the choices.
While it is possible that the court would make the same decisions you would, it is also possible that it would not. In general, you probably know your friends and family better than the court does. You probably also understand your children’s best interests better than the court does. Relationships can be complicated, but a legally valid will allows you to express wishes that are specific to your situation.
Deciding to draft a will or not is a personal decision. However, for many people, a will provides a way to ensure their valuables will go to the people who deserve them, to protect their children and to make sure final affairs are managed by someone they trust.