Individuals work a lifetime accumulating assets, personal property and mementos. It only takes a small investment of time to make sure those valued items pass on to your loved ones. If executed correctly, a Last Will and Testament can clearly state your wishes and ensure they are carried out properly. Other important reasons to take the time to prepare a will are:
1. You care about your family and loved ones and you do not want to leave them to figure everything out on their own after your death. By planning, you are conveying the message they are important enough for you to have taken the time to state what your wishes are with respect to your property and assets.
2. People may not die in the order you plan so if a joint account owner passes away before you do, you have a contingency in place. Your family and loved ones will know what your wishes are if the co-owners on your account die before you do.
3. You want to include plans for a bequest or gift to a charitable, religious, social, or community organization that has played a significant role in your life or the life of a loved one. It is important to take the time to include them in your planning.
4. You do not want the State of Michigan to determine how your assets and property are divided and distributed. Without a will, the State will divide your property between your spouse and children or other relatives. You would prefer to make that decision yourself, rather than having the State decide who inherits your property.
5. You do not want the probate court to determine who is your executor. Making a decision on who you prefer to handle your affairs after your death is not difficult and will make it easier for your family and loved ones.
6. A will can be changed. So, if your circumstances change, you have the ability to make whatever changes you deem appropriate. The changes can be due to personal circumstances, death of children or other family members or other reasons.
7. You do not want your family to fight over your estate including your personal items. If you have a will, it is less likely that your estate will be subject to any disputes.
Of course, as we have discussed in past issues of the Elder Law Today, a Last Will and Testament may not be appropriated for everyone. A Revocable Living Trust is often preferred over a Will because assets titled in a trust avoid probate. Whatever your situation, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced elder law attorney to help you decide on the estate plan best suited to your circumstances.