Sooner or later, the question will begin to arise, of should I write my will? While it’s never really too early to write it down, there comes a time when you really should be giving the issue some real attention. There are many reasons not to leave a will, and it can be considerably time consuming and expensive to have one drawn up, so this article will go through briefly, some of the common advantages and disadvantages of your options. This guide is just a quick overview and if you are considering leaving a will, you should speak to an attorney or specialist.
Your first option is simply to do nothing. This is definitely the simplest option. It costs you nothing, in time or money, and you know that your assets will be distributed on your death.
However, there are some aspects of this option that may be of concern to you. First of all you will have no control over the disposal of your assets. They will be distributed according to your state’s law of intestacy. These rules are generally pretty fair, they will usually give most of your estate to your spouse or children. However, if this is exactly what you do not want, then not writing a will would be a very bad idea. Even if you are happy with your state’s rules, you should know that your state will have to go through Probate. You do not get to choose your guardian so if there was someone specific you wanted to carry out your last wishes, you should leave that in a will, and also make sure they are willing to do it for you.
Wills also give you significant tax planning potential and you will not be taking advantage of any of these. This may result in a much higher percentage of your estate going on tax than if you did some tax planning.
If you do leave a will, you can direct how the assets are shared out by leaving specific bequests to whomever you wish. These are very easy to set up, the only requirement is that they are clear and easily understood. You will have the freedom to choose your personal executor. You can provide specifically for children’s needs and you can give gifts to family members or to charities.
The disadvantages are that probate expenses and delays will mean your beneficiaries will not immediately benefit. You will have little scope for taking advantage of income tax deductions. Your finances will become public record and you will not get to feel the joy of giving during your own lifetime.
Another option you will have is to set up a trust. This can avoid probate expenses and the delays associated with probate. You will have significant tax planning opportunities. You can give now during your lifetime and see the benefits. You can have some control over the process if it begins during your lifetime. You can choose the trustees and change or revoke the trust. There are however significant legal formalities involved.
This information is for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended to take the place of an attorney or legal counsel. Please consult directly with an attorney for any legal questions you may have.