Last Will and Testament: Why You Need One and How to Get It
More than one-half of Americans do not have a Last Will and Testament. For those between the ages of 30 and 49, just 35% report having a last will. The reasons for this are simple. Many people believe that only wealthy people or those with assets require a will. And if we’re honest, no one likes to think about dying or believe that their death is imminent. This is especially true for those who have yet to reach middle age.
And if we’re honest, no one likes to think about dying or believe that their death is imminent. This is especially true for those who have yet to reach middle age.
And yet, people die every day, many before their time. For those left behind: spouses, children, brothers and sisters, life partners, and even pets, the consequences of not having a last will can be devastating. Most of us are familiar with stories about famous actors or musicians dying without a last will.
Prince died at the early age of 57 without a Last Will and Testament, leaving behind an estate worth an estimated $200 million. Claimants from all walks of life emerged claiming to be distant relatives. Prince’s estate ultimately went to his sister and five half-siblings. No one will never know if that is what he wanted.
Bob Marley was just 36 when he died of cancer in 1981, leaving behind no last will. Some 30+ years later, Marley’s heirs are still fighting over his estate in court.
And while the vast majority of us will never have to worry about disposing of multi-million-dollar estates, we want to know that our loved ones are cared for and our last wishes honored.
What Happens if I Die without a Last Will?
If you die without a will, or without a valid will, that is called dying intestate. Under intestacy laws, the state oversees the distribution of your assets based on default rules. These rules are listed in state statutes and are further clarified by court rulings which become case law.
Intestacy laws vary by state, but generally if you die without a last will your estate will be split up between your spouse and children. This scenario is the cause of frequent conflicts, particularly where the deceased was remarried and there is ill-will between the surviving spouse and children.
Why Make a Last Will and Testament?
Wills are not just for the rich or elderly. There are many reasons why you should make a Last Will and Testament. Some common reasons include:
- Specifying who will get your assets and ensuring that your wishes are honored. For example, making sure that your daughter gets your wedding ring.
- Identifying who you want to care for your children. If you die intestate the court will decide.
- Determining who will manage your estate. You can appoint someone that you trust as executor.
- Caring for your pets. With a will you can specify a caretaker and even leave money aside to provide for their ongoing care.
- Supporting charities. Even if you have no heirs, you can direct that your estate be allocated to organizations or causes that are important to you.
- Providing funeral instructions. This makes the process easier for your family and ensures that your wishes are honored.
- Making the process easier on your loved ones. Dying intestate can drag the process out and cost your loved ones money.
How to Create a Last Will and Testament?
There are many options available to create a Last Will and Testament. Yet not all options produce the desired results. A last will must meet certain requirements under state law to be considered valid. For example, holographic wills, or wills handwritten without any witnesses present, are considered invalid in some states. Failing to have the required number of witnesses over the age of 18 and/or have the document notarized can also invalidate wills.
For most people, writing their own last wills is not the best option. In addition to ensuring that the will complies with state law, the will must identify assets, beneficiaries, payment of debts, and specify who gets what. A single omission can have significant consequences.
Another common method is to find a Last Will and Testament template online or use one of countless do-it-yourself (DIY) platforms. In the case of a Last Will and Testament template, there is simply no way to know if the form complies with applicable state law.
While DIY platforms can be a cost-effective option, the will is not reviewed by a licensed attorney. This can lead to unintended consequences (i.e., omitted assets or tax implications). The most expensive option is to have an attorney prepare your Last Will and Testament for you. Yet for many people, traditional law firm fees are cost prohibitive. It is not uncommon for lawyers to charge $1,500 or more to prepare a last will.
Fortunately, There is Another Option.
Get a Convenient and Cost-Effective Attorney Reviewed Last Will with Heirloom
Heirloom is a revolutionary platform for preparing and updating a Last Will and Testament. Using our intuitive platform, you answer a series of simple questions. We use your responses to generate an attorney prepared and compliant last will.
From there, a licensed attorney will review your last will within 24 hours. The lawyer will ensure that your last will is valid and enforceable. Once reviewed, we will print your documents and send them to you, or you can print them yourself. Then simply execute your last will in front of the required number of witnesses (and notary public depending on your state). Be sure to store your will safely at home and on your digital dashboard.
With Heirloom, you can easily update your Will as changes in your life circumstances dictate.