Even if you don’t have or need a trust, virtually every adult should have a Will, especially upon becoming a parent.
If you have children that are not of adult age, or have an adult child that is developmentally disabled, a Will – not a trust -- is the document that allows you to name who you want to serve as guardian should you pass away first.
Also, some incorrectly believe a power of attorney is sufficient to name who handle their affairs after they pass away. But the authority given in a power of attorney automatically ends at death. A Will is the document in which you name your personal representative, sometimes called an “executor.”
Of course, a Will also allows you to state who will receive your things. But if you don’t have a Will, you leave to the government to decide how that question is answered. As you can imagine, this can create a great deal of turmoil.
An experience I had several years ago highlights the importance of a using a Will to protect your estate from unexpected circumstances. A widowed friend of mine kept telling me that she intended to create a Will, but she just never seemed to be ready to get it done. She had no surviving parents or siblings. The only family she had was her son, who she wanted to receive her things.
As too often occurs, she passed away unexpectedly. When meeting with her son, he told me something that was going to completely alter what would happen to her estate. He told me that he was her son because she informally “adopted” him many years ago. He was not her biological son; nor had he ever been legally adopted.
Had she completed a Will, her son would have received everything. However, because she did not, he had no legal right to any of her estate. Instead, distant relatives, who I believe she did not even know, received her things. The lesson is, if you fail to plan, you leave to someone else to decide what happens to your estate.
© 2015 Steven J Wright