Why Should I Have A Will?


Many people ask the question, “Why should I have a will?” Understanding the importance of a will means understanding what happens to your property if you do not have a will at the time of your death. Having a will gives you the ability to do what you want with your property even after you have died. If you do not have a will, the state will decide what happens to all of your possessions. Statistics show that seven out of ten people do not have a will. Out of the thirty percent of people that do have a will, fifty percent leave their entire estate to their spouse.

About $100,000,000 from estates without wills goes through the probate courts each week. And, that’s just in the United States! If you die without a will, the state will decide who takes possession over your estate. If you have a spouse that is still living, no children and your parents are deceased; your spouse will inherit all of your belongings. If you have a spouse and children that survive you and all of the children are your spouses’ children, the estate still goes to your surviving spouse. Only if the children are yours and not your spouses’, the children share the estate.

One example of a good reason to have a will is a 40 year old woman who lost a battle with breast cancer. She didn’t have any children and her parents were deceased. She had been separated from her husband for three years, but was not yet divorced. Legally, her soon to be ex-husband was the surviving spouse and received her entire estate. This woman was a successful artist and her estate included a house, new car and savings which totaled to a little more than $400,000. This woman made a mistake by believing that she didn’t need a will because her estate was worth less than $600,000. The story is so sad because the husband that inherited the estate abused this woman physically and emotionally for fifteen years.

Another example is of a thirty-three year old woman who was a pro-choice activist that was killed in a car accident. Her parents were active in a fundamentalist Baptist church and often told her how wrong she was in being pro-choice and even told her that she was going to hell for being a supporter. They did still have a relationship, although it was strained and awkward. This woman assumed she was too young to have a will and her estate was not worth enough to hire an attorney. She also believed that an attorney was the only way to draw up a will. Her estate totaled up to $125,000 from a life insurance policy and an aunt’s inheritance. The entire estate went to her parents who said that the money might make right some of the “evil” work that had been done by their daughter.

There are many cases like these two women where the estate goes to the wrong person because there was not a will to specify where it should go. Most people underestimate the value of their estates and overestimate the time and cost of having a will drawn up. Besides just the distribution of your property, a will can state how and where you wish to be buried and who is to take care of your children and/or pets.

Another way to distribute property in a will is to make a bequest. A bequest is a way of supporting non-profits by leaving all or a portion of your estate to a certain charity, city, state or just something or an organization that you support. For example, when Ben Franklin died, his will read that he wanted his estate to be split between the city of Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania. He left this under the condition that it could not be touched for 200 years. In 1998, it was worth 2.3 million dollars. Anyone can make a bequest. All you have to do is be alive and in your right mind when you make your will. You don’t have to be rich to make a bequest. Even if you just own an old car, you can donate it to, say, the Salvation Army. They might get a few hundred dollars out of it.

Either way you want your estate to be distributed, to your surviving family members, to a church, to a school or something you just support, just remember, if you don’t have a will, the state decides where it goes. Wouldn’t you rather take a few minutes to have a will drawn up so your estate goes where you want it to go?

This post was written by

jason – who has written posts on Budget Clowns.
Father of three and married to a lovely women. Always looking for ways to save money, and invest it properly for my children's future.

Email  • Google + • Twitter

Comments are closed.