MSBA Top 25 Blawg of 2011

2011 LexisNexis Top 25 Estate Planning and Elder Law Blog

Monday, June 9, 2008

Why do I need a Will?

Most people know they should have one, but when is it necessary to have a will?

First, an important time to have a will done is when children are involved. In case of you and your spouse's death, your will can name your preferred guardian of your children. Unless that preferred guardian is found to be unfit, that person will be named as your children's guardian by a court. Additionally, because you have let your wishes be known, your relatives are less likely to dispute the appointment of the guardian. Without the guidance that a will provides, you will leave the task of finding the appropriate guardian up to a court and opens up a protracted fight as to who will care for your children.

Second, another good reason to have a will is to simplify the probate process for those you leave behind. With a will, you can request to have an unsupervised probate, which means that your personal representative (the person you have named in your will who will be distributing and caring for your estate) can act without constant court supervision. Additionally, you can waive the need for your personal representative to put up a bond (cash held by the court to make sure your personal representative does his job, but which is generally a huge burden on the representative).

Finally, another good reason to have a will is to keep your family from fighting. Even though you may not have a lot of money for them to fight over, sentimental items may be just a contentious. Family jewelry, china, or gnome collection can cause family members to fight, even if there is little monetary value involved. In Minnesota, a personal property list that is simply signed by the decedent carries the weight of a will if it is referred to in a will. The personal property list can be changed at anytime, allowing one to add items or change who will receive them without redoing the will. However, you will need a will referring to the list to make the list effective.

Wills aren't just for the rich. People of all income levels, or really those they leave behind, benefit from the clear indication of intent and convenience in distributing the estate that a will provides.