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The Importance of Having a Will

Updated: Jun 30, 2021

Wills Have a Major Impact on Minor Kids

Perhaps THE most important thing about having a will applies to parents with minor children. Note, this has absolutely nothing to do with wealth! A will provides the mechanism for naming a guardian for your kids and someone, often the same person, to manage the funds to look after their needs, since minors cannot legally own property. That’s why it is essential that parents protect their children by having a will.

Probate Court

Any property that passes under a will is subject to the probate process. This means that a probate court will oversee the transfer of property, which involves court and attorney’s fees in exchange for its time and efforts in disposing of the property. Probate costs will vary from state to state. Some states have a much simpler process or exemption for smaller value estates.

Intestacy Laws

If a person dies without a will, they have died “intestate,” which means that the intestacy laws of the state will be used to distribute his or her assets according to a scheme. Basically, courts will find the next of kin, usually spouses and children, and distribute property according to a plan set by law. If there are no spouses or children, parents are next in line, then siblings and so on. In probate court, the costs of locating and qualifying distant relatives are charged to the estate. Musician Prince famously died with no will which sparked significant legal drama when so-called distant relatives came out of the woodwork to claim a piece of his estate. After much chaos, the probate court ended up dividing his vast fortune between his sister and five half-siblings, with whom he either had tumultuous or little, if any, relationships.

DIY Wills

Can a person make their own will? Sure, they can. But will it be valid? Wills are not valid unless certain formalities are met. Since it’s too easy to get it wrong, it’s best left to a professional who will make sure that the third cousin twice removed no one knew existed isn’t laughing his way to the bank. Having a valid will drawn up by a licensed lawyer is easy and reasonably affordable given what’s at stake, so it’s pretty reckless to shortcut this one.

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