Wills do more than just distribute property. A will lets you decide who gets what assets, and also who should take care of your minor children. Without a will, the state will decide who gets what without consideration of your wishes, or the needs or wishes of the family and friends you leave behind. Here are some of the top reasons to have a will:
1. Appoint a Guardian for Minor Children
If you have minor children, a will lets you appoint a guardian to take care of your minor children. If parents don’t have a will, the court will likely choose among family members, but don’t you have a preference? By making the decision in a will, you can be assured it's the person you want to raise your children (or make sure it isn’t someone you don’t want) and you can likely save some family arguments.
2. Delay Distributions for Minor Children
By state law, any money transferred to a child under age 18 or 21 (depending on the state) must be held by the courts until the child reaches 18 or 21. Then, the child gets the lump sum, free and clear. Would you have wisely spent a lump sum of money at age 18 or even 21? Probably not. A will lets you delay when your children receive that distribution or divide the distribution over a few years.
3. Appoint an Executor
An executor is in charge of winding up all of your affairs. He or she makes sure all the bills are paid, cancels your credit cards, notifies banks, and terminates any leases. Your executor will also be in charge of finding and distributing all your assets. This is a good time to make a list of assets you own that others might not know about. Do your children know where all of your retirement accounts are held? Do your parents know where you have bank accounts? That information isn’t necessarily in the will, but can be on a list stored with the will....
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