10 Reasons You Need a Will

1. You do not trust the state to decide where your assets go. If you do not have a will, the state determines how your assets are distributed after your death. It is called the laws of intestate succession. Those laws vary from state to state and may not be what you want to happen. A will lets you make that decision.

2. Your trust may not cover everything you own. Some people set up a living trust for their estate planning purposes and assume that the trust will handle everything. For a trust to control an asset the asset must be placed into the trust. That may involve a title transfer, a new deed or a new bank or stock account. If the item is not transferred into the trust, the trust has no control over that asset. Even if you intend to place all of your assets into the trust, you may not get around to it or have the oppportunity to place it in the trust. If you get killed by a drunk driver, your estate may have a legal claim against the drunk driver, but since it happened at the moment of your death there is no way you could have placed that item into your trust. That is why you should at least have a "pour over will" which says that any assets that are not in the trust at the time of death are to be put into the trust and distributed according to the trust's terms.

3. You don't know what you will own at the time of your death. Many people think that because they do not own much there is no reason to have a will. A will only becomes effective upon your death. That is why you can freely change your will while you are alive. What you own today may not bear any resemblance to what you own at the time of your death. You could get an inheritance, win the lottery, win a big lawsuit or otherwise end up with money you don't have today. A will enables you to set who gets what is left of that money.

4. To focus on what you can do for your family's future. By going through the process of preparing a will, you are forced to focus on what happens after you pass on. How will your family get by? Do you have enough insurance? How will your family pay the home mortgage? Can your family survive without your income? Have you saved enough? Who will care for your children? Are your children responsible enough to handle the funds they would receive from your estate or would they be quickly squandered?

5. You want to name a guardian for your children. If you have minor children, someone will need to look after them. You may have strong opinions about who should do it. Without your guidance a court will likely chose the closest relative or the person who comes forward wanting to be the guardian. That may be the last person on earth you would want to be guardian. A will gives you the opportunity to let the court know your wishes.

6. You believe that someone in particular should handle your affairs. Someone after your death will need to assemble your assets, pay your debts and distribute what is left over to your heirs. That person is called the personal representative in Florida. You can choose who that person is in your will. There may be someone in your family who is particularly capable or incapable of doing that. Without a will the court will chose the personal representaive without knowing your wishes.

7. You have a blended family and want to give something to your stepchildren. Without a will your estate generally follows blood lines. If you have had more than one marriage, you may have children from different marriages. Unless you have adopted the children, the step- children will generally not inherit any of your assets. A will can change that.

8. You want to leave something to charity. If you have a favorite charity that you want to support or don't want your family to inherit your estate, you need to have a will to see that the charity gets what you wish them to receive.

9. You want to minimize or avoid federal estate taxes. If you have a substantial estate, you may be obligated to pay federal estate taxes. It is possible with proper planning to reduce or eliminate estate taxes with a properly drafted will as part of your overall estate plan.

10. You want to set up a trust fund for your spouse, children or grandchildren. If you have handled the finances for the family and are concerned that the remaining family members would not know how to preserve the assets you have given them, a trust fund could be set up that appoints proper people to invest and pay out the funds according to the needs of the beneficiaries.