Many people think you need to be wealthy to have a Last Will and Testament (a Will). But everyone age 18 and over should have a Will, even if it’s for one item or one account that you want to pass down to a specific person.
Preparing for the end of life can be an uncomfortable topic. But having a Will protects your loved ones from future expenses, disputes, and frustrations. Without a written, legal document that describes how your property should be distributed upon your death, you risk leaving inheritance matters in the hands of the state.
Estate planning doesn’t have to be complicated—or costly. A free consultation with Graham & Graham is the first step towards taking control of the future.
What Happens When You Don’t Have a Will
When you create a Will, you are deciding who will receive your property when you die. If you have minor children, your Will also determines who assumes legal guardianship of them in the event of your premature death.
People who die without a Will in Ohio are considered to have died “intestate.” Dying intestate means that Ohio law dictates how your assets will be distributed. In most cases, the spouse and children of a person who dies intestate receives 100 percent of their assets.
But if you die without a Will and have no surviving heirs, your property is transferred to the state. Friends, relatives, such as nieces, nephews, cousins, etc., and charities—who are not considered heirs—won’t be eligible to receive your property.
Without an estate plan, you risk losing everything you worked for over the years.
Perhaps more important, dying with heirs, but without a Will, can lead to disputes between heirs about who receives what. Family fights may make it necessary for a court to get involved, leading to conflict, prolonged litigation, and legal costs that drain estate assets.
Another benefit of a Will is that you choose the estate executor. This person, who has the authority to disperse your property according to your wishes, should be somebody that you trust. But without a will, the state chooses an executor for you, and it may not be the person you want making important end-of-life decisions.
“No one wants to think about their death or that of their loved ones,” explains Bob Graham. “But without an estate plan, you risk losing everything you worked for over the years, or worse, leaving your family fighting over medical decisions, material possessions, or financial assets. It costs very little time and money to gain the peace of mind that your intentions will be well-served and that your family or other loved ones will have a relatively smooth experience following their loss.”
Your Will Should Be Regularly Updated
According to AARP, 6 in 10 U.S. adults do not have a Will. Already have a Will? Congratulations—you’re ahead of most Americans in this regard.
Although creating a Will is an important first step, the document should be revised every three to five years on average, especially when major life events occur—like retirement, a home purchase, or inheritance—or state or federal laws change. Consider making changes to your Will in the following circumstances:
- Death of a spouse
- Having or adopting a child
- Children reach adulthood and move out
- State law/tax code changes
- Changing jobs
- Moving to a new state
- Adding or losing assets
- Change in beneficiaries or executor
- Life-changing health condition
- Inheritance or other financial windfall
Gain Peace of Mind with Estate Planning From Graham & Graham
Estate planning involves much more than writing a Will and reviewing it periodically. Planning for the years BEFORE you die is also critically important. Our initial estate planning consultations are free, and the choices available for securing yourself and your family do no need to be expensive. Planning for the future can also save enormous headaches and expenses within your family.
Start making plans today: Schedule a free case consultation.