Do I need a will? We have all heard horror stories of what happens when the rich old uncle dies, and doesn’t have a will. What we don’t hear enough about, is what can go wrong when young people die and have not will. Wills are not just for the old and rich. Even if you are young and struggling, you need a will, right now. Here are three reasons why:
1. You need a will if you have (or want to have) children.
Having children doesn’t just affect how you live, it affects the plans that you need in place if something happens. While you are alive and healthy, you can think through who you would want to take care of your children if you weren’t there. You have a chance to talk with those people in advance as well. You can make sure that they would be okay with raising your children. You can talk together about what what you think is most important in raising a child. If you wait to have those conversations until you know you won’t be around, it might be too late.
Just having that conversation with the person you would want to raise your child isn’t enough. You need a formal declaration of your choice, so that there is no doubt to anyone about who you want.
2. You need a will if you own a house, or any other real estate.
You might think that if you and your spouse buy a house together, if you die, your spouse will own the home. That is not how Texas law works. If you haven’t written a will, or filed a deed that will transfer your interest in the home on your death, your spouse will be faced with a probate action and might not inherit your share of the home at all. If you’re not married, its even more important to write a will to say what you want to happen to your real property.
3. You need a will if you have life insurance.
Children are irresponsible. We love them anyways, but they are. Texas law says that on their 18th birthday, they are suddenly adults. If only they suddenly became responsible as well. Let’s say you have a life insurance policy for $200,000. Your spouse is your beneficiary, and you trust your spouse to be responsible; but what if you and your spouse are in an accident together? Is your child the alternate beneficiary? Would $200,000 in cash really be the gift your would choose to give them for their 18th birthday? They probably won’t have even finished high school yet.
If you write a will, you have a lot more options. You can say what the money can and cannot be spent on. You can say who decides how much your child can spend each year. You can decide if your child should get the money all at once, or a little each year, or only after they pay for their college with it. You can decide that they get it all at once, but not until they are old enough to know how to handle it; and you can decide what age that is likely to be.
What if you’re still not sure?
If you are still asking “Do I need a will?” you might benefit from a personal meeting with an estate planning attorney. They can help you understand other ways in which a will can help you. There are also a lot of other documents that are included in our estate planning packages. Schedule an appointment with one of our estate planning attorneys to learn more about why you need a will, even if you are still young and struggling.