Chances are that if you are reading this, you do not have a will. Most people don't. But why is that such a bad thing? Check out the following top 3 reasons why it's important to have a will in place:
1. You Cannot Control Where Your Assets Go.
Seriously. Without a will you have no control. If you do not have a will when you die, all your assets are distributed according to Tennessee's intestacy laws. These assets include:
- personal effects such as furniture, jewelry, and heirlooms
- real estate
- bank accounts
- investment accounts, and
Intestacy laws are state laws put in place to determine who will inherit personal assets upon the death of someone who did not have a will. These laws do not take into consideration of what the deceased person “would have wanted.” The deceased's wishes simply do not matter if there is no will. The law simply follows an orderly structure of succession based on the deceased's living relatives and family tree.
Lately, we have seen how problematic this situation can be. For example, a client recently came into our office asking for help with a probate issue for his late father. His father had an estranged wife and multiple children, including children from prior relationships. The son said that his dad wished to leave his estate to the dad's two children. When we asked our client to produce his father's will, he said his dad did not have one but that distribution is what he wanted. We then had to share the news that his dad's wishes did not matter in view of Tennessee's intestacy laws. Unfortunately, if our client's dad did not put his wishes in a will, what the father verbally told his son has no legal bearing. As such, the father's estranged wife would inherit no less than one-third of the estate and the children would split the remaining shares. Although the father expressed his wishes to his son before his death, his verbal word has no influence on what actually happened with his personal assets.
2. The State of Tennessee Has a Will for You.
If you don't create a will, the State of Tennessee creates a “one size fits all” will for you. Intestacy laws control where your assets go if you die without a will, and these laws distribute your assets based upon your closing living relatives. For example, a wife would inherit from her husband if they have no children. However, if the husband had children, then those children would inherit along with the wife. Intestacy laws can be a bit tricky, especially with spouses and children. To avoid those complications, make creating a will a top priority so that the state does not decide where your assets go.
3. You Cannot Control Who Will Be in Charge of Your Assets When You Die.
Without a will, you have no control over who will be appointed to manage your estate after our death. It could be someone that you would never want to be in control of your assets. So be careful and execute a will that clearly states the persons you want to manage your affairs as executors. You want to appoint someone you trust and that you believe has your best interests at heart. This decision is especially important if you have estranged relationships, such our client's father in the story above, or if you have family tension that could make your wishes seem controversial.
If you do not have a will you need one. They are a critical part of your estate plan. If you are getting married, having children, or have experienced the death of a loved one, there is no better time to write a will than now. Reach out to experienced will attorney John Crow and let him know that you need to prepare an estate plan. He will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have about the process.