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If You Want to Protect Your Loved Ones, You Need to Have a Will

Currently, more than 70% of adults in the US under the age of 34 don't have a will. The most common reasons are procrastination, not believing they have enough assets to protect or thinking this document will cost too much to prepare. Despite those prevalent misconceptions, a will is actually a very important document for any individual who has at least one important person in their life. To help set the record straight about wills, let's go over answers to some common questions:

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Is It Really That Important to Have a Will?

In the event of your passing, a will is crucial for protecting your significant other, your children or even your pet. Having this document ensures you get to decide the distribution for your estate. It also helps to avoid a lengthy probate process, as well as aids in minimizing estate taxes. A will gives you an opportunity to make donations and gifts, as well as avoid having any part of your estate passed on to someone you didn't intend. And once you have a will, you can always update it if any circumstances in your life change.

What Happens If You Don't Have a Will?

Depending on your specific situation, there are a few different things that can happen if you pass away without a will. The most common is intestacy. This term refers to the default plan for distributing property if someone who dies doesn't have a will. And while the specifics of this plan can vary by state or country, it's almost always quite far from being what someone would want to ideally happen.

Is It Hard or Expensive to Create a Will?

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Of all the misconceptions about wills, this one is probably the most common. In fact, it's the exact reason many people are hesitant to even look into exactly what they need to do to create a will. But despite its prevalence, this assumption simply isn't true. When you look at the small investment a will requires versus the potential consequences of not having one, it quickly becomes apparent that having a will drawn up is well worth protecting everything you've worked so hard to earn.

Once people accept the fact that getting a will created isn't going to cost them an arm and a leg, they may still have concerns that a lawyer is going to attempt to get a little extra money out of them by billing for additional hours. However, this can easily be solved by working with a wills and probate firm that offers this service for a flat all-inclusive fee.

What About Making Your Own Will?

A common thought by people who recognize the importance of having a will but are still hesitant to spend any amount of money on having one created is that they can make their own will. So, can you create a will by following the directions that are outlined online or in a book from the library? Technically, the answer to that question is yes. That being said, there are two major risks with that approach. The first is creating a will without getting any input from an experienced legal professional. Not receiving any professional guidance can result in someone creating a will that's far from optimal.

The second major risk is it's possible to make a seemingly simple mistake that can completely invalidate the entire will. For example, a beneficiary of a will can't act as one of its witnesses. This is the type of issue that a lawyer would know about, but someone who's never made a will before could easily overlook.

Do You Need to Update Your Will?

While updating your will isn't something that needs to be done annually, it is a good idea to get it taken care of promptly if you experience a major life change. Examples include a significant financial windfall, a big financial setback, a change in your relationship, becoming a parent or grandparent, having a spouse die, or being diagnosed with a serious illness. The good news is working with a law firm to update your will is very easy to do.

Death isn't something that anyone wants to think about. But until Google's new project Calico finds a solution for death, it's a reality that everyone needs to acknowledge. And because creating a will only requires a minimal amount of time and money, and is the absolute best way to protect the people you care about most, there's no reason not to put this task at the top of your to-do list!

Nada Hanks is a legal reporter. Because she's seen firsthand the negative consequences of people not having their will and other legal documents in order, she wants to help by using her writing to inform as many people as possible.

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