“There is something about wills which brings out the worst side of human nature. People who under ordinary circumstances are perfectly upright and amiable, go as curly as corkscrews and foam at the mouth, whenever they hear the words ‘I devise and bequeath.'” – Dorothy L. Sayer
This quotation provides the quintessential rationale behind the necessity of drawing up a will before you die. And, because you do not know the date of your death, it stands to reason that it is vital to draw up a will as soon as possible.
Before we look at some of the negatives of not drawing up a will before an untimely death, let’s consider what a last will and testament are.
What is a last will and testament?
Kelly Phillips Erb of Forbes.com defined a will as follows:
“A will spells out who will serve as the executor… [of the deceased’s estate] …as well as who will receive assets belonging to the decedent, and under what terms.”
In other words, when drawing up a will, you describe all your assets and then state who should receive part or all of these assets. Interestingly enough, it is also important to note that your will should make provision for estate taxes if any.
And, because of the complexities around the US state and federal estate laws, it is a good idea, when drawing up your will, to consult with an estate planning law firm in Hill Country Village.
The primary motivation to draw up a will and plan your estate
Now that we have a comprehensive understanding of the primary function of estate planning and drawing up a will, the next step is to consider why it is so essential to draw up a will and file it in a safe place such as either with the executor of your estate or a legal professional.
Without a will, you will die intestate
Succinctly stated, dying intestate essentially “refers to dying without a legal will.” The logical question that must be asked and answered is: Why is this a problem?
Again, the most straightforward answer is that, when you die in intestacy, the “distribution of… [your] …assets then becomes the responsibility of a probate court.”
The first thing the probate court does is appoint an executor or administrator of your estate. The executor is responsible for the collection and receipt of all the legal claims and outstanding debts against the estate. These both need to be settled. The administrator also needs to locate all of your legal heirs. This includes surviving children, parents, and spouses.
It is also important to note that there is a specific order in which the legal heirs are entitled the subdivision of the assets. Property is usually divided among the children and surviving spouse with the spouse generally receiving at least fifty percent of your estate. If there are no surviving family members, this property is ceded to the state.
Needless to say, this is a time consuming, complicated, and costly process. And, it can result in legal challenges by family members who believe they are due more than the administrator deems appropriate. Thus, to remove the need for the probate court to divide up your assets, it’s critical to draw up a will before you die.