Only about one-third of Americans have created a last will and testament (more commonly referred to as simply a "will"), including more than have of those aged 55 and older. While, no one wants to spend a lot of time thinking about what will happen after they die, creating a will can save your heirs a lot of time, aggravation and money after you're gone.
What is a will?
Simply put, a will outlines what you would like to happen to your assets (your house, your car, your jewelry, your DVD collection) after you die. It also names a person (called the executor or executrix) to oversee the dissolution and distribution of your estate after your death. If you die without a will, who gets what is decided by a probate court, based on your closest next of kin.
Four benefits to creating a will
However, avoid probate court (and the associated fees) is only one of the many good reasons for visiting your attorney and having him or her create a last will and testament for you.
1. You can choose who will care for your children and pets. More important even than your possessions is who will care for your minor children and your pets after your demise. You can designate a guardian for your kids and pets in your will and avoid them being placed with children services or the local pound or with relatives who may not have their best interests at heart.
2. You'll save your family money. Probate court services are not free. They will charge your heirs hefty court costs and administrative fees, depending on the size of your estate and how much time is required to complete the necessary steps to distribute your assets.
3. You can make gifts to charitable organizations. A will also allows you to leave all or a portion of your assets to your church, the local food pantry or any other charitable organization you designate.
4. You get to choose the person who makes decisions about the distribution of your assets. When you create a will, you get to choose the person who will sell your assets and/or distribute them to the people you designate. Without a will, the court names a person you probably don't even know to handle these tasks.
Don't leave the money and possessions that you've worked your entire life to earn to the mercy of a probate court judge. Create a last will and testament at your earliest convenience and make sure that your wishes are honored after your death.