Jurispeakingly, by Mary Jo Strusz, Colleen's Contributor
There is one universal truth…no one will get out of this life alive. So when you do face the inevitable end who will get all that “stuff” that you have worked so hard to collect? The answer for that question will vary depending upon the State in which you live. Unless, you take charge of your life and make a will or, even better, an estate plan.
Why do you need a will? The answer is simple. You cannot own every item you have in joint tenancy. Everyone has items of personal property for which there is no written joint tenancy declaration. Think of that great new Longchamps bag or your Jimmy Choos. Do you really want to think that your mom, sister, and best friend would fight over them?
A will is a written document that tells your friends and family who you want to get your property. It will prevent your estate from being considered intestate- without a will or living trust- and being distributed according to the laws of your state. If you are married you can specify that you want your spouse to inherit (Yes! In some states if you do not have children and if you have no will, your spouse will be forced to split your property with your parents!) If you have no spouse you can leave your property directly to a family member or friend. You can make specific bequests (the gift of an amount of money or identified personal property to a named individual). A Will can establish who you want to take guardianship of your children and who you want to protect their monetary estate.
People believe that they do not have sufficient assets to need a will. However, many do not consider the value of their personal property when making this assessment. Consider the resale value of your electronics. Do you have a nice vehicle with no lien or with a substantial amount of equity? Do you have profit sharing or death benefits at work? Have you started an IRA or 401K plan? What about life insurance? All of these items may be subject to division by your state. If you would like more information on how your state would distribute your intestate assets go to: Mystatewill.com. This site has an intestacy calculator for each state that will give you some idea of how your state would distribute your assets.
If the thought of your family fighting over your assets doesn’t motivate you; consider that many states have inheritance taxes that can be minimized with a will or estate plan. EVERYONE needs some type of plan. The time to take action is now. Put calling an Attorney on your to do calendar or at the very least check out some of the wills that are now available online.