A recent Gallup poll found that fewer than half of Americans (46%) have a last will that states the way in which their assets are to be handled after their death.
Surprisingly, the results of this survey have been nearly unchanged since 1990 at between 44% and 51%.
Real Simple’s recent article “6 Reasons You Need to Make a Will Now” says that one of the most common myths is that a last will isn’t needed if you want all of your assets to go to your family.
- While the state has laws on what happens if you die without a last will, what if that's not exactly how you want your estate to be distributed?
- Another major reason for creating a last will is to make certain that someone is named to care for your minor children.
- A last will lets you designate guardians to care for your children after your death. Without a guardian in a last will, a judge will decide who raises your children if you pass away. That judge likely would be someone who does not know you or your children or your family and friends. Without a last will, you will be allowing this “stranger” to make this life-changing decision for your children.
- Also, there are taxes. If you have a last will in place, it will minimize estate taxes your family may have to deal with. A comprehensive estate plan created with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney can reduce tax exposure by as much as 40%. This move alone can help avoid having to pay taxes on your income a second time.
- A last will isn’t just for your benefit. Your family will ultimately be most impacted by whether you took the time to draft up this important document. Creating a last will can give them some peace and comfort during a difficult time. In contrast, not having a last will leaves them with no guidance as to your wishes and can add to their burdens and stress during their grieving.
- Care and maintenance of pets. The law says that pets are just property. If you regard your pets as members of the family, then you can leave money to an individual whom you designate as the caregiver for your pet if it survives you. A last will lets you to give your pet to a chosen loved one. This simple step alone can help prevent your pet from going to a shelter.
Reference: Real Simple (June 25, 2021) “6 Reasons You Need to Make a Will Now”