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Why is a Will Important?

Why is a Will Important?

Troy Werner and his family

Written by Troy Werner

Troy Werner has been an indispensable asset to The Werner Law Firm since joining in 2009, providing exceptional legal service to its clients.

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POSTED ON: April 29, 2024

While many people put off wills until the unattainable ‘later,’ many others simply fail to create a will because they do not really understand what and how the document works.

Everyone knows what a Last Will and Testament is. However, many Americans don’t have one, says a recent article from The News-Enterprise, “Why everyone needs a will.” Many people think they don’t need a will until they retire, are nearing death, or are concerned about the cost. However, the truth is, that any adult with mental capacity needs to have a will. Every parent needs a will. And anyone who owns anything, whether a car, home, or bank account, needs a will.

Anyone who is married or owns assets with named beneficiaries or joint ownership still needs a will, which can be confusing to some people. Here’s why everyone needs a will.

Owning assets together, as in joint ownership, or owning accounts titled with another person’s name, as in payable-on-death, or owning assets with named beneficiaries, protect those specific assets from going through probate. However, everything else in the estate still must go through probate.

With no will in place, the state statute determines who will receive any probate assets. However, even with all assets assigned to beneficiaries or joint owners, if there is a lawsuit over the death, the estate will receive assets from the lawsuit, and money will be distributed according to state intestacy laws if there is no will.

When property is held in joint ownership, when the second owner dies, who will receive the property? In the same way, accounts with payable-on-death beneficiaries must consider what will occur if the beneficiary should die first. The property or assets may end up in probate anyway. If there’s no will, the state’s intestacy laws will determine who receives the property.

Another common question about wills concerns the need to work with an experienced estate planning attorney. Here’s the big problem: if the will is flawed because the person or online platform does not comply with the state’s laws of how a will must be created and executed, the will may easily be deemed invalid. If this happens, there’s no way to fix the problem, and the person’s estate is subject to state statutes.

There’s no reason not to speak with an estate planning attorney to learn how different property types pass from one person to another and discuss the tax issues in estate planning, including how inheritance can impact beneficiaries and what happens if unexpected events occur. Unintended consequences are expensive for surviving spouses and heirs and are more likely to result if no professional guidance is involved.

Even if you have a trust, you still need a will. Trusts need to be funded to work; sometimes, assets are left out of them. A provision can be included in the will to “pour over” any assets into an established trust to protect against assets going through probate.

Parents need wills, so their minor children can be protected. The will is the legal mechanism whereby parents name a guardian to raise minor children. If there’s no will, the court appoints a guardian. This is a decision most parents would prefer to make themselves.

If you need help creating your will or setting up your estate plan, we are always happy to help. Our probate attorneys in Los Angeles can guide you through it.

If you have any questions, schedule a free appointment with us through our online appointment page.

You can also read reviews from some of the hundreds of clients we have helped over the years.

Reference: The News-Enterprise (March 2, 204) “Why everyone needs a will”

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