Procrastination is one of the biggest hurdles we all face in getting our estate planning done. Most Tennesseans know they need a will and other coordinated documents in place. We intend to get to it at some point, but feel too busy, or lack the pressing motivation, to contact an attorney and complete this essential life step. Some people even mistakenly believe they have no need for a will, maybe because they don’t own much, or because their “kids will get it anyway.”
If any of that sounds like you, this post is written with you in mind. Here are six (6) important reasons why you need a will (and 2 reasons why you shouldn’t wait).
- Be in control of naming your heirs. Without a will, state law determines which of your family members will receive your property. A recent probate client was left administering an estate to which the rightful heirs under Tennessee law were more than 25 cousins and 2nd cousins, many of whom did not even know the decedent. If you want your property to be chopped into dozens of shares and distributed to people you don’t know or maybe don’t like, then be sure not to have a will in place!
- Be in control of naming who is in charge of administering your estate. Tennessee probate courts will appoint the qualified administrator you name in your will to oversee the collection of your assets, the payment of your debts, and the distribution of your property. Without a will, the court will make this decision without your input. In your will, you can also nominate the person(s) you want to be guardian of your minor children, look after your pets, or administer a trust.
- Assets? What assets? You may think you don’t own much. But your home could be worth more in the future than you ever imagined. You could inherit money from a cousin you don’t even know (see #1 above). Have a will in place that takes care of assigning property you might have at your death, not just the property you currently own.
- You could benefit from professional expertise. An experienced Tennessee wills attorney can raise issues and offer solutions that may never have occurred to you. That’s part of the job. Does one of your children struggle with money management or addiction? Who will receive one child’s share of your property if they were to pass away before you do? Do you own a home that another family member lives in? Any number of life situations raise concerns about your estate that will remain unaddressed without a will. At the same time, a will can offer solutions to current complications, and address those contingencies that could bring future complications.
- Make life easier on your loved ones after you pass. A will gives simple and direct guidance on your wishes. Having to make decisions while also grieving your loss adds to stress. It also makes the process of administering your estate more straightforward. A provision in your will that authorizes the Executor to sell your home, for example, can keep your loved ones from having to receive court approval before selling it.
- Limit family conflict during and after your life. Knowing that a lawful document clearly lays out your wishes will go a long way toward heading off family squabbles over your property.
Now that you understand why you need a will in place, here are a couple of reasons why you shouldn’t wait in getting one.
- The process does not have to be complicated or overly expensive. Clients are routinely surprised that the process of putting a will together doesn’t cost more or take more time. Some expected to have to gather together mounds of paperwork, or list every asset they own, and think it could thousands in attorney fees. In fact, most attorneys make the process as efficient as possible while still being thorough. And flat fee pricing can keep costs to a minimum.
- Life can bring the unexpected. And I don’t just mean that we don’t know when we will die, though that is true. It’s also important to make plans while you are capable of thinking clearly. A time of personal or family crisis often motivates a person to prepare a will, but that is not the best time. You will make the best decisions while your faculties are strong, and your emotions are steady. And your family will have confidence that your will truly reflects your wishes.
Please contact us today online or by calling 800.705.2121 to discuss your legal options.