Reasons to be sure you have an updated will
Published 11:47 am Tuesday, December 7, 2021
Let me begin by stating that I’m not an attorney nor am I dispensing legal advice. I am providing information as to why I believe that a Will is very important. Surprisingly, many people don’t have a Will, and that can be a major disaster for those who survive you upon your death. Not only can a Will legally protect your spouse, children, and assets, it states exactly how you would like your estate handled after you have passed on.
If you have a Will and have previously been married, it’s a good idea to review your Will, your insurance policies, pension plans, annuities, bank accounts and deeds on property to be sure that the person(s) listed as beneficiaries are those whom you intended to receive those benefits. Many people have named their spouses as beneficiaries of various funds and properties. That’s fine, But if they subsequently got divorced and possibly remarried and failed to update their Will or make changes naming the new spouse or other beneficiaries could potentially and inadvertently end up leaving nothing to the current spouse and family.
A Will, sometimes also called the last Will and Testament is a legal document that specifies how a person’s estate should be handled after that person’s death. For example, whether their property and assets will be inherited by a spouse, divided among all children equally, left only to certain specified children or relatives, or donated to charity. Keep in mind that a Will is executed ONLY after a person is deceased.
Here are five good reasons to have a Will:
- You decide how your estate will be distributed. A Will is a legally binding document that lets you determine how you would like your estate to be handled upon your death. If you die without a Will, there is no guarantee that your intended desires will be carried out.
- To avoid a lengthy probate process. Contrary to common belief, all estates must go through the probate process, with or without a Will. Having a Will, however, speeds up that process and informs the court how you’d like your estate divided. Without a Will, known as dying intestate, the court decides how to divide the estate without your input, which can cause long delays.
- You name and decide who the Executor will be to close the affairs of your estate. Your executor makes sure all your affairs are in order, including paying off bills, canceling your credit cards, and notifying the bank and other business establishments of your death. Because executors play the biggest role in the administration of your estate, you’ll want to be sure to appoint someone who is honest, trustworthy, and organized which may or may not always be a family member.
- Avoid greater legal challenges. If you die without a Will, part or all your estate may pass to someone you did not intend, such as a former spouse or child you chose to disinherit.
- You can change your mind if your life circumstances change. A good reason for having a Will is that you can change it at any time while you’re still alive. Life changes, such as births, deaths, and divorce, and can create situations where changing your Will is necessary.
Procrastination and the unwillingness to accept death as part of life are common reasons for not having a Will. Sometimes the realization that a Will is needed occurs too late due to an unexpected death or disability. Having a Will done does not have to be an expensive endeavor, and it reduces the stress on families during an already emotional time. It’s a good idea to talk with an estate planning lawyer to help you get the basic estate plan you want to have in place before you need it.
In a future article I’ll discuss Living Wills which are different and used when a person is unable to make healthcare decisions for him/herself; for example, if they are suffering from a terminal illness and unable to communicate their choices, are permanently incapacitated or are in a coma.
Ron Kauffman is a Consultant & Expert Speaker on Issues of Aging. He is the author of “Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease” available as a Kindle book on Amazon.com. You may contact him by phone at
(828) 696-9799 or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.