Why Do I Need a Will?
A Will is a document that lets you tell the world who you want to get your assets after death. Many people believe their estate is not large enough to warrant the making of a Will. However, keep in mind that any amount of property constitutes an estate. The drafting of a Will is a delicate operation and must meet certain formal requirements as provided by the laws of each state.
A Will should be made while the maker is in good health and free from emotional stress. A prudent person does not wait for a catastrophe or other compelling reason before making a decision. If you have minor children a Will is a necessity, because a Will is the best way for you to appoint a guardian for your children. If you do not have a Will, the court will appoint the guardian, not you.
In addition, when a person dies without a Will or dies “intestate” as the law calls it, the property of the deceased is distributed according to a formula fixed by law. In other words, if you do not make a Will, you do not have any say as to how your property will be distributed. In Alabama, for example, if a person dies with¬out a Will, leaving a spouse and two children by that spouse, the spouse will receive the first $50,000 in property value, plus 1/2 of the balance of the estate with each of the children receiving 1/4 of the balance of the estate.
If your children are under the age of 19, your surviving spouse would have to be appointed guardian of the children by the court and provide a bond. This guardianship would remain in effect until the children reach 19 years of age. Such proceedings are expensive and would create legal problems that could have been avoided had the deceased spouse made a Will. A few hours of an attorney’s time may mean great savings in taxes and probate expenses.