Most people tend to procrastinate about making their last will and testament, primarily because it is a harsh reminder of our mortality and as such, we prefer not to have anything to do with it until the time comes when it is too late to do something about it. In most funerals you attend, you often hear people ask if the deceased left any will and the most common answer being “no” or “none.”
While making a will is certainly no one’s favorite thing to do, what many people don’t realize is that it can alleviate your fears of death because once you decide to make it, you will be assured that the loved ones you leave behind will be taken care of properly and that your estate won’t be spent on legal expenses from contests initiated by your heirs.
However, that’s not to say you can’t die without ever making a will. In fact, there are two ways by which you can die without a will, the first being because you never wrote one and the second being, the will you wrote was declared invalid by probate court. In both cases, this is referred to as dying intestate or dying without a valid will.
When you die intestate, that means the control of your property and the distribution of your assets will be done under the laws of intestacy. If for example you co-owned a property with two other people, the laws of intestacy dictate that the ownership will not transfer to the other co-owners but your heirs, which is one situation that the remaining co-owners may contest.
There are four types of assets where these laws don’t apply and they are as follows:
- Life insurance and retirement plan proceeds
- Properties that are jointly owned with a right of survivorship
- Properties held in a living trust
- Properties under the community property system
The entire purpose of making a will is to make sure your property and assets are distributed to people and organizations as you intended. To make sure this happens you can elect an executor of your will to make sure every condition in your will is fulfilled. Choosing an executor means you should choose someone you trust like a relative or a close friend. If you don’t have neither to choose from, then it should be someone who is dependable, trustworthy, well-organized, good with paperwork and diligent about meeting deadlines.
And lastly, making a will doesn’t have to follow a strict guideline because what will matter is not how the will was written but the conditions written within. There are many ways these days to write your own will, such as software that you can use just by asking you a few questions where your answers will be inserted into a ready-made will. Having a will ready will also save you from having to hire a lawyer to help you write one – not only is it time-consuming to find a good lawyer, it is also quite expensive to have one draft your will for you.