I Don’t Have a Will… Am I Hosed?
Many people don't have a Last Will and Testament. There are a number of excuses...don't know a good attorney, no time to take care of this stuff, costs too much, the idea that you need a LARGE estate in order to have an Estate Plan, etc. But not having a Will can be a disastrous thing for your family and heirs.
Among other things, a well-drafted Will provides for the distribution of your assets to the heirs of your choice, names guardians for your minor children and appoints someone— an executor—to take care of your affairs after your death. Without a Will, all of these responsibilities, and many others, must be decided upon and overseen by a Court.
If you die without a Will, you die "intestate." This means that the Court will apply the laws of the State of Texas to the administration of your estate. Again, this can mean bad news for your surviving family members and loved ones. Let's look at a few reasons why.
First, it is true that Wills aren't necessarily cheap. However, it will cost your family more money if you die without a Will and have a Court appoint an estate administrator, oversee the payment of your debts and ensure the final distribution of your assets to your heirs under state law. The oversight of the Court means more attorneys' fees and probate settlement costs have to be paid from your estate—reducing the amount your family and heirs will inherit from you.
Second, your assets will be distributed according to state statutes—this may or may not be how you would have wanted your assets distributed at all! For example, if you don't have a Will and your assets are distributed to a minor child, your family will pay even more in fees and Court costs because the Court will have to get involved yet again in the administration of the child's estate. This is because minors can't legally own property without a guardian of the assets. A Court will have to resolve this issue. Or, consider this: what if you are in a second marriage and have children from your first marriage? By not having a Will, you could unintentionally disinherit your new spouse, leaving him or her destitute. Don't even think for a second that your children will financially support your new spouse! It rarely happens that way. Death and money change people. We've seen it happen.
Third, dying without a Will means you have no control over the way your assets are distributed. Some distributions should be made in a trust—not outright— to protect the assets and the beneficiary. Who needs that kind of control after death? Well, what if you have a special needs child or spouse? Without a Will, you just jeopardized qualification for government benefits. What if you have a child with an addiction? Without a Will, you just funded the habit. What if your estate is large enough to owe estate taxes to the federal government? Without a Will, you just left the door wide open for Uncle Sam to take more than his fair share. The negative consequences of not having a Will can be numerous, costly, and dangerous!
So, are you hosed if you die without a Will? Yeah. We'd say that you probably are.
Don't leave your Estate Planning up to the Courts and state laws. Even a simple Will with trust provisions can resolve a lot of these types of issues.
We can help you understand the potential pitfalls and assist you in creating a solid Estate Plan. It is more cost-effective to pay now and have a well-drafted Will than it is to leave your family in the financial lurch of dying without a Will!