The Importance of a Last Will and Testament

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A Last Will and Testament states what will happen to your assets after death. This includes, but is not limited to, your estate, property, possessions, money and children. The consequences of not having a will are quite serious; the government will divide your property, regardless of your intended wishes.

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Why Do Less Than Half of Americans Have a Last Will?

The reasons for this vary from being frightened at the thought of one's own death, to not seeing a reason for one unless they are terminally ill or near death. While fear certainly drives procrastination, creating a Last Will and Testament is not about comfort, nor is it about yourself. It is about ensuring your loved ones have protection after your death.

Every Adult Needs a Will

People often think only the elderly need a will, but adults of all ages should have one. This is especially important for parents of minor children. Without a will, the government decides who will become your children's guardian after you die. In order to have a say in who will care for your children—should your death occur before they reach adulthood—you must draft a Last Will and Testament to reflect your wishes for their future care.

Even adults without families can benefit from having a Last Will and Testament. You worked hard to earn what you have—your home, car, bank account—shouldn’t you express how it will be distributed after your death? Without a will, your wishes will be irrelevant, and the state will decide how to distribute your estate. Precious heirlooms, that you wanted to give to a friend upon your death, will be sold at auctions and the money will go to the government. Drafting a Last Will ensures your estate is handled according to your preference, and that your money is given to a friend, family member or charity of your choice.

Keep Your Will Up-to-Date

Once you’ve drafted your will, it’s important to keep it up-to-date. This means if you have a new child, you must update the will to include your child, even if you wish to state that the child will receive no part of your estate. In most jurisdictions, if you don't name all of your heirs, they or their legal guardian(s) will have the right to contest your will.

James Brown, "The Godfather of Soul", had his will contested in early 2007 because it failed to name the late singer’s youngest son, James Jr, and his widow Tami Rae Hynie (though, there was considerable controversy surrounding the legitimacy of Hynie’s marriage to Brown).

Brown’s will didn't appear to be updated since the birth of his last son, so it is unclear whether the omission was intentional or not. However, the singer’s intention is irrelevant. Having failed to name one of his heirs meant Brown’s will was open to contest, highlighting a real situation that can happen to anyone’s estate if they fail to update their will after major life events such as marriage or the birth of a child.

In order to make sure that your will is up-to-date, you should review it after the following events:

  • You get married or divorced (a change in marital status may void your will)
  • You are not married, but have a new partner
  • The amount of money and/or property you own changes significantly
  • Your executor or guardian is no longer willing or able to perform their obligations
  • A significant beneficiary in your will dies
  • There is a birth or adoption of a child in your family
  • You change your mind about the provisions in your will

We all know there are no guarantees in life, and failing to plan for one's own death won't prevent it from happening. In which case, it is important to write a Last Will and Testament to be prepared for anything that comes your way.

Writing Your Will

Hiring a lawyer to draft your will can be expensive. Our Last Will and Testament form uses simple step-by-step questions to help you create your own document. All you have to do is think about your assets and how you would like them distributed among your family and friends. Carefully list as much as you can in detail to avoid any discrepancies, ambiguities or errors in the document.

If you are still uneasy about the process, educate yourself or talk to someone who has created a will. They can attest to the comprehensive task and offer advice for starting out.

By drafting a will, you ensure that your family is taken care of and that your estate is handled according to your wishes — not the will of the government.

Start drafting your will today with LawDepot's Last Will and Testament form.