When a person dies without a Will they are deemed to have passed away "Intestate" or without a Will. When this happens, the Court will decide what happens to your assets. I want to share one story to highlight why a Will is important. Several years ago, a gentleman came into the office, accompanied by his adult step-son, and the gentleman wanted to Probate the Estate of his recently deceased wife. His stepson was in his early forties and he was asked if he had a Will. He said no but planned to return soon to have a Will drafted. Before he returned, he died Intestate unexpectedly. He left a vintage vehicle that his step-father was interested in keeping but because the step-son did not have a Will, the vintage vehicle went to his estranged brother who lived several states away. In this story, had the step-son had a Will, it would have saved time, money, and stress for his loved one. Without a Will, the Court made all important decisions about his estate, but he would have determined who managed his estate with a Will. His Will would have made it clear to who he wanted to get his assets and property. His Will could have included instructions for his digital assets, pets, and funeral instructions. Perhaps the greatest advantage to having a Will is to help avoid your surviving family members avoid feuds and disagreements.
While it is possible to find many versions of Wills online, anyone considering using an online Will form should at least speak with an attorney in the jurisdiction where you live to learn more about the Pros and Cons of using the Wills you can find online. Many attorneys offer free initial consultations so it would be worth the time to seek the professional advice of an attorney who is familiar with drafting Wills.
Young parents should also consider specifying who they would want to be guardians of their children should both parents die at the same time. Automobile and other accidents do claim the lives of both parents on occasion so it is very important that parents plan for what happens to their children should both parents die.
In a follow-up blog, I will discuss the differences between a Will and a Trust.