Contemplating our own mortality can be very uncomfortable. This could be one of the main reasons why more than half of Americans do not have a Will. A 2020 Gallup poll (released in June 2021) showed that only 46% of U.S. adults have a Will in place detailing how their estate should be handled after they pass away. It is never too early to begin creating an estate plan, even if you are not yet married or do not have children. Having a legal strategy in place ensures your wishes are fulfilled in the event of your death or incapacitation. Here are 5 reasons you need a Will:
- To make sure your property goes to only those people or organizations you want it to go to: If you are a resident of New York State and pass away without a Will, the state law determines how your assets are divided and distributed. This is called “intestacy”. An example of the problems with the intestate rules is that, if you leave behind a spouse and children, the spouse only receives $50,000 plus half of the total estate balance. The children inherit everything else, which may not leave enough for your spouse to live comfortably.
- To name a guardian for your minor children: Not designating a guardian will require that a judge be tasked with deciding where your children go (who they live with) if you pass away. Effectively this leaves a stranger determining who cares for your children.
- To provide care and maintenance of your pets: Did you know that you can leave your pet (and money for its care) to a person you designate as your pet’s caregiver if it survives you? This designation in a Will helps to prevent your pet from going to a shelter.
- To reduce potential tax ramifications: Properly structured estate plans can reduce your loved ones’ liability for state and federal estate taxes after your death. If you are married, simple provisions can be added to your Will effectively doubling your family’s New York State estate tax exclusion.
- To provide peace of mind: Your family and other loved ones are the people who will ultimately be most affected by whether you took the time to draw up a Will. Having a validly executed, up-to-date Will provides family members peace of mind and may relieve some of their stress during the grieving process.
If you would like to learn more after reading 5 reasons why you need a will, the estate planning attorneys at Lacy Katzen are here to help. We can guide you in developing an estate plan that will meet your wishes. Please contact us here or call 585.454.5650.