I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you…but yes, you need a will. Unless your parents still claim you as a dependent, then its time to get at least a basic estate plan.
As we grow up, start our career, get married and start a family…we sometimes forget that we need to plan ahead. I don’t mean plan for the weekend or a summer vacation, I mean “worst-case-scenario” type planning.
If I just described you at the beginning of this paragraph, not only do you need a will, but you needed one a while ago!
So let’s break down the 4 types of people that need a will…and why.
1. You’re Single
Being single makes life a lot less complicated…financially speaking (I said financially… geeeze!). That doesn’t mean EVERYTHING is less complicated. You have bank accounts, possibly a retirement account, a pile of personal property…like furniture, maybe a car, jewelry and so on. Basically, if you own stuff… you need a will.
Let’s quickly talk about what will happen if you don’t have a will.
There is a little something called probate court. It’s a local court that will follow state law to decide how your assets are divided if you die “intestate”…without a will. It will decide who gets what and how much.
Having a will is like leaving behind your own instruction manual to follow. Not only can you decide who gets what, but you can decide who’s in charge of dividing everything up.
You can get as specific as you want…down to the last piece of jewelry.
2. You’re Married
Getting married means you’ve decided to share your life, your finances and your property with that special someone. It’s a commitment to support each other for the rest of your lives.
If something happens to one of you, the other will be forced into some tough decisions at a time where they should be mourning. Leaving those instructions will make the process MUCH easier on them.
With a new marriage, also comes new family…the in-laws. If you don’t make your wishes known in a will, then your spouse could be under a lot more pressure.
He or she would likely be forced to include your parents in the decision making…and of course, “they know what you would have wanted”…don’t they?
Make it easier for everyone and just TELL them what YOU want in your will.
3. You Have Kids
Well, at this point, it’s a no-brainer.
If you have kids, and you’re searching Google for tips on whether you need a will or not, then you’re WAY behind. Whether you’re married…or not, your life is way too complicated to be flying by the seat of your pants.
Your Last Will & Testament is where you specify who takes custody of your minor children if you AND the other parent die. This is not a decision for the court to make.
It’s a very personal decision that only YOU should be making.
In addition to that, you have to think about your assets. Your kids cannot inherit a retirement plan…or a bank account directly.
So, not only will the court decide who takes care of your children, they will also decide who is “in charge” of YOUR money until they turn 18. Need I say more?
OK, I will…in your will, you can set up a trust for those accounts! What’s a trust?
In short, it’s another set of documents, that can actually take ownership of your assets LONG after you’ve died. It can have it’s own tax id number and everything!
It would be like providing very specific instructions for WHO is in charge of your money, HOW it’s managed, WHAT they can do with it… and WHO can benefit from it.
Very powerful stuff when you have young children.
4. You Own Your Home
For a lot of us, our home is our biggest asset. Unfortunately, you can’t really fill out a beneficiary designation form on the deed. Real estate, often comes with its own set of rules when it comes to those pesky state laws.
How you own your home, whether you’re married and if you have kids can all have a factor in what happens to the property after your death.
Creating your will (and quite frankly even a trust) can be VERY helpful to everyone involved.
What You Should Do About It
Well, there are a few options…the first of which…I don’t recommend. I’ll tell you about it anyway.
In SOME states, you can actually make your own will…with a pen and paper. This is called a “holographic” will (not a holoGRAM will…which would be cool). That being said, every state is different and has their own rules about what makes a will valid.
For example, some states require a notary and some don’t. Some states require two witnesses…and some don’t. Because of this, and if you didn’t catch it the first time, I DON’T RECOMMEND THIS!
The second option, is to hire an Estate Planning Attorney. Not a Real Estate Attorney or an Entertainment Law Attorney that “dabbles” in estate planning, I mean an ACTUAL Estate Planning Attorney. Ask a friend or family member for a referral or search Google for “Estate Planning Attorneys Near Me”…just make sure they know what they’re doing.
The going rate for a “basic estate plan”, could be somewhere between $1,500 to $3,000 and is usually charged as a flat rate. Attorneys also use pre-written templates and the more complicated your plan gets, the more personalized the document becomes, which means the fee gets higher…FYI.
The last option, is you could go online to a company like Trust & Will.
Trust & Will, like other online legal services companies, sell templates created by attorneys that YOU can customize to your situation.
Trust & Will can help you get a will specific to your state laws, along with other documents that should be part of your basic estate plan.
Because we have partnered with Trust & Will, if you use promo code themoneytwins at your checkout, you’ll get a little discount (but don’t tell anyone else, OK? Just for you…just click here).
That being said, Trust & Will and these other companies (including The Money Twins) don’t give legal advice. If you have a complex situation that needs expert legal advice, please hire an attorney.
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About Matt & Brad
They are identical twins and money experts. Matt and Brad Ruttenberg have, combined, over 2 decades of experience as financial planners. They are known for simplifying money and helping others go from living paycheck to paycheck to thriving financially.
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