Assuming you are over the age of eighteen and are of sound mind, you should think about getting a Will right now. Many people think about having a Will prepared when they experience some major life change, such as divorce, the death of a family member or the birth or adoption of a child. Those major life changes can be a “wake-up call” that spur us to think about what will happen when we die – not to be morbid, but the correct term is when, not if. Those major life events may be the catalyst for some people to recognize the need for a Will, but they don’t cause the need – they needed a Will before those events took place. Of course, the next crucial step is actually taking action to have that Will prepared, but let’s not rush things.
Consider the terms you can specify in your Will, such as: 1) Who will receive your property (or conversely, who will not receive your property); 2) Who will handle your estate; 3) Who will serve as guardian of your children; 4) Who will arrange your funeral/burial/cremation; and 5) If any individual receiving a portion of your assets is under age eighteen, who will manage those assets. This is a quick list of common terms and is by no means comprehensive.
Unless you truly have no concerns about what happens with your property when you die, you should have a Will to specify who receives what. Your Will should also name alternate beneficiaries in case the person(s) you want to receive your property dies before you or at the same time as you. If you are not related to that person, you absolutely, positively need a Will to make him or her the beneficiary of your estate.
But when I die, everything will go to my spouse and if I die before him or her or at the same time, then everything will go to our children. Are they legally “our” children or do you have a blended family with stepchildren? Stepchildren and biological or adopted children are not treated the same for inheritance purposes. Who will handle the assets for those children and at what age will the children have control over the assets? Is it a good idea for children to receive a very large chunk of money at age eighteen when they legally become adults?
Last, but not least, do you know what would happen with your property, guardianship of your children, etc, if you die without a Will? Now is the time to get the answer to that question. None of us know if we will be alive when the sun comes up tomorrow, so take the time right now to have your Will prepared.
This important, but not very uplifting, message was brought to you by Demmel Law Office, LLC. If you live or work in the central Pennsylvania area, including Hershey, Carlisle, Harrisburg and surrounding communities and would like to discuss preparing a Will or any other family law or estate planning or administration issue, please contact me.