Wills Estates and Trusts
In estate planning, a will is one of the most important documents to have in place. It ensures that your assets are distributed correctly, and your estate is settled according to your wishes after you pass away.
But what happens if you don’t have a will? Let’s explore the consequences of not having a will and some tips for proceeding in your estate planning journey.
What Is a Will?
Before we dive into the consequences of not having a will, let’s first define what a will is. A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that outlines how your assets should be distributed after your death. It often names an executor (the person responsible for carrying out the wishes in the will), and can also name a guardian for any minor children.
The Consequences of Not Having a Will
If you pass away without a will, you are said to have died “intestate.” This means that state law will determine your assets’ distribution, which may not align with your wishes.
Here are some of the potential consequences of not having a will:
- Your assets may not go to your intended beneficiaries. If you don’t have a will, state law will dictate who receives your real estate, the funds in your financial accounts, investments, and any other valuable assets you own. This means that your assets may go to family members you don’t want them to or they may be split in a way that doesn’t align with what you want.
- Your family may face lengthy legal battles. If there are disputes among your family members about who should receive your assets, they may end up in court. This can be a lengthy and expensive process and can cause rifts between family members.
- Your children may not be cared for according to your wishes. If you have minor children and don’t have a will that names a guardian, the court will determine who should care for them. The court’s decision may not be the one you would have made and could result in your children being placed with someone you wouldn’t have chosen.
- Your estate may face unnecessary taxes and fees. Your estate may face unnecessary taxes and fees if you don’t have a will. Without a plan in place, your estate may not be structured to minimize tax liabilities, which could result in your beneficiaries receiving less than you intended.
How to Proceed Without a Will
If you don’t have a will, creating one is not too late. Here are the steps you should take:
- Contact a qualified attorney. Hire an estate planning attorney to help you create a will that aligns with your wishes and ensures that your assets are distributed how you want them to be.
- Determine your assets and beneficiaries. Make a list of your assets and determine who you want to receive them. This will help you create a will that accurately reflects your wishes.
- Name an executor and guardian. Your will should name an executor who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes and a guardian for any minor children.
- Review and update your will regularly. It’s important to review and update your will periodically to ensure that it accurately reflects your wishes. This is especially important if your circumstances change, such as having a child, getting married or divorced, or acquiring new assets.
Get Started on Creating Your Will Today and Avoid the Risks
Having a will is a crucial part of estate planning, as it ensures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after you pass away. If you don’t have a will, the consequences can be significant, including your children being raised in a way you wouldn’t prefer and your estate being settled in a manner you wouldn’t have chosen.
Our friends at Santa Barbara Estate Planning & Elder Law will say that by contacting an attorney for help creating your will, you can ensure that your wishes are fulfilled and your loved ones are cared for after you’re gone.