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Why Everyone Needs a Will

Published on August 18, 2023 in Educational Resources

A woman reviews her will with the help of an estate planning attorney.

Everyone needs a will, yet only about half of Americans have one. Understandably, there might be many reasons we put off creating this important document — it may seem too complicated or upsetting to think about. So in honor of National Make-A-Will Month, here are some compelling reasons to create (or update) your will now:

1. You can decide who gets what.

Every state has laws about what happens to your property if you die without a will. This usually means that your estate (any and all of your assets and belongings) is divided up among family members. If you want the agency to provide for extended family or loved ones who are not family members, or if you want to support family members in any way that is different from how the state would divide up your estate, then you need to create a will. 

2. You can help your loved ones to avoid probate court.

Even if you feel that state laws would distribute your estate in a way that you are comfortable with, you should still create a will. If you die without a will, you leave your estate to be sorted out in probate court. Not only can this court process be time-consuming and expensive for the people you care about, but it can also lead to disputes between family members. Having a will in place helps to ensure that your estate is distributed exactly how you want it to be without a difficult and drawn out court process.

3. You can protect your children.

Naming a guardian for your minor children in your will is an important way to care for your children after your death. If you do not name a guardian in your will, it means that a judge will have to decide who will be the guardian of your children. This judge will not know you or what you would have wanted, so it is better for you to make this choice yourself by naming a guardian in your will.

4. You can provide for your pets. 

We love our pets, but in the eyes of the law, they are property. You cannot leave money or property to your pets, but you can give your pets and funds for their care to a person in your will. Naming a caregiver for your pets in your will would help to ensure that your pets do not go to a shelter when you pass away.

5. You can reduce taxes.

When an estate plan is properly structured, you may be able to reduce both federal and state taxes on your estate. Your attorney will be able to help you to consider each of your assets, what will pass outside of your will, and the tax benefits and consequences of your estate plan. You might be able to reduce the size of your estate, and your plan could include making gifts to charities. With some careful planning, you could reduce taxes, and this means that more of your estate goes to the people who are important to you and the causes you care about.

6. You can plan for your potential incapacity.

OK, this won’t be accomplished in your will. However, when you are meeting with your attorney to prepare your will, you can also create important documents like a durable power of attorney, a health care proxy, and a living will.

7. You can provide peace of mind to your loved ones.

Your loved ones are greatly impacted by whether or not you have a will. If you do not have a will, your loved ones will have the burden of attempting to figure out what you would have wanted. This could create added stress during an already difficult time, even if these discussions do not become contentious or turn into a legal battle. When you create a will, you provide comfort to the people you care about during a time when they will be grieving for you. Creating a will lets your loved ones know your wishes about how you want your assets to be divided up, and it can also include funeral arrangements. This guidance provides peace of mind to your loved ones.

8. You can give yourself peace of mind.

Creating a will can give you peace of mind that you have a plan in place. When you take the time to create this essential document, you have the comfort of knowing that you are providing for the people and causes you care about and that your wishes will be carried out. No matter your age, what your family looks like, or how much you have, creating a will is something that you can do. And giving yourself some peace of mind is perhaps the most important thing that you can do by creating a will. 

How to Create or Update Your Will

We hope the reasons listed above will inspire you to create or update your will.

  • If you need help getting started, here is a checklist to use and then discuss with your attorney. 

National Brain Tumor Society does not provide legal, tax, or financial advice. We strongly recommend that you consult professional advisors on all legal, tax, or financial matters, including estate planning considerations. This communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of avoiding tax-related penalties.

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