At some point after you “officially” become an adult you will start to wonder if you need to start thinking about estate planning. At what point in your life should you create a Will? Do you need to be married before an estate plan is necessary? Do you need to have a high net worth before a Will is essential? What exactly determines the need to create an estate plan? These are all good questions. Because estate planning is such an individualized endeavor it is always best to consult with an experienced Missouri estate planning attorney to decide when you should get started and what your plan should include; however, everyone over the age of 18 should create a Will because whether you realize it or not you do have an estate and you likely care what happens to that estate.
What Can a Will Do For You?
Like many people, you may be under the impression that you need to have significant assets or high value possessions before a Will is necessary. This simply is not the case. Your Last Will and Testament is a legal document that allows you to decide who will receive your estate assets when you die. Even if you have yet to amass valuable assets in terms of monetary value, you likely have assets that mean something to you. As such, you likely care what happens to them when you die. For example, if you have family heirlooms in your possession you probably want those heirlooms to be passed down to a specific individual. When you create a Will you can make sure they are passed down to that person. Likewise, you may have sentimental items that you have promised to someone, such as a doll collection you promised to a favorite niece or a jewelry collection to a best friend. The only way to ensure that these promises are fulfilled is to create a Will and turn those promises into gifts in the Will.
Your Will also allows you to appoint the Executor of your estate. The Executor is the person who oversees the probate process. Probate is the legal process required of most estates following the death of the estate owner. If you fail to appoint an Executor, any qualified adult can petition to serve in the position or the court will appoint someone. If you care who oversees the probate of your estate you need to take the opportunity to appoint someone in your Will.
Finally, by executing a Will you are able to nominate a guardian for your minor child, if you have one. In the event that a guardian is needed, a court must appoint one. Your Will is the only opportunity you will have to tell the court who you would choose if it were your choice. For most parents, the ability to nominate a guardian is the single most important reason for creating a Will.
What Happens without a Will?
If you fail to create a Will your estate will be probated using the Missouri intestate succession laws in the event of your death. Typically, this means that only very close relatives will receive assets from your estate. Close friends, nieces and nephews, charities, and others to whom you may have made promises will likely receive nothing from your estate. Not only does this mean you will have no say in what happens to your estate assets, but assets may have to be sold in order to create the proper division of assets according to the intestate succession laws. It also means that a court may decide who will oversee the probate process and who will be appointed as the guardian for your minor child – both outcomes that you may wish to avoid.
Although you may not need a complex estate plan at this point in your life, it should be clear by now that everyone can benefit from creating a Last Will and Testament. If you have decided it is time to create a Will, or if you have additional questions or concerns about creating a Will, contact the experienced Missouri estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.