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Why You Need a Will in Estate Planning

An estate plan, at its core, is the process of planning the management of someone’s assets in the event of their incapacity or death. Each person’s estate plan varies, but typically, it’s a process that starts with having a will as well as having various advance directives that operate while a person is still alive, including a financial power of attorney and a health care advance medical directive.

It is vitally important for everyone to have a will so that they may directly control where their property or assets may go after death.

A will allows a person to specify who receives assets when they are gone. It may include real estate, investments, money, jewelry, and many other things. A will also allows an individual to appoint an executor of the estate who is in charge of making sure the terms of the will are followed.

Now, you may ask “Who cares? What are the implications of not having a will?”

Well, if an individual dies without a will, our system is one that allocates a person’s property if the deceased chose not to do so themselves. This means that if you were to die without a will, your property would be passed in accordance with intestate laws.[1] In Alabama, this means that if you have children, a spouse, or parents who are living at the time of your death your spouse would only receive a portion of your estate – regardless of if you wish otherwise.

For example, if you had three children and a spouse living at the time of your death and you wished for your property to go to Child 1, Child 2, and your Spouse because you cut off your third child – these wishes would not be effectuated because you died intestate. This means that, regardless of your wishes, your property would be split between all three children and your spouse. Essentially, if you die without a will someone is going to get your assets; however, it may not be someone you would want to receive your property.

Commonly, it is believed that estate planning is something you should do later in life; however, this is not the case.

Young people and families are in need of wills just as much as older individuals. First, it is vitally important for new families to create a will to establish care for their children in the event that they no longer can care for them. If the unfortunate circumstances arises when you are no longer able to raise your children, you don't want the court or your surviving family members scrambling to figure out who should take care of them. Second, if you die prior to your child turning 18, they cannot directly control any inheritance you leave them.

Typically the court may appoint someone to manage the assets you leave your child. If you have a specific way in which you want your assets managed, how your property or money should be used, and when your child should directly receive a transfer of wealth, it would be in your best interest to create a trust.

Probate lawyer and estate planning attorney Derek Chen can help ensure that your desires and wishes are carried out upon your death and can work with you to develop a strategy for best managing your assets upon your death. [1] Ala. Code § 43-8-40

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