For most of us, writing a will is a task we put off with a variety of excuses. It costs too much. It’s too confusing. It’s creepy. People under 50 don’t need wills. Excuses aside, there’s one good reason to write a will: what happens if you don’t.
Young and carefree
If you’re young and unmarried, writing a will may seem like a good task to put off for another year—or another 20 years. But if you’re hit by a snowboarder tomorrow and don’t have a spouse or kids, your parents would get everything you own. So, if you want to give your favorite nephew your computer and make sure your best friend takes care of your cat, a will is the way to go.
If you’re not married but in a committed relationship, a will is essential. If you die, your significant other won’t be entitled to any of your estate unless you make provisions now.
For married folks
Many married people don’t write a will because they figure that their spouse will inherit everything. Not necessarily true. In Colorado, if your parents are alive but you don’t have any children, your spouse could wind up sharing your estate with his or her in-laws. And if either of you has children from a previous relationship, your spouse will get even less.
If you have children
If you have children, regardless of whether you’re married or not, a will is the way to plan for their future care. With or without a will, the court decides who takes care of your kids, but if there is a will, the court usually enforces it. In most cases, children are placed in the care of the other parent, but for single or divorced parents this may not be a good (or even possible) option. And what would happen if both parents die at the same time? Writing a will gives you some control over who raises your children if you aren’t around.
For larger, more complex estates
In this case, you will probably use a combination of estate planning documents. In Colorado, a will is usually the cornerstone of any good estate plan. Without the direction of a thorough will (or in some cases a revocable living trust) your estate could be tied up for months as your family or the courts sort out what you own and who should get it. The longer it takes, the greater the expense. Plus, without some estate planning, the I.R.S. could claim a hefty chunk of your estate in avoidable taxes.
If you’re older or ill, now is the time to put your affairs in order—and the sooner the better! Writing a will is the way to be sure that your possessions and savings go to the people or places that mean the most to you.
Up-to-date estate planning documents (will, powers of attorney, etc.) that are appropriate for you will generally reduce the cost of administration if you should die or become disabled. Particularly if your estate is modest, saving a dollar in administration costs upon death or disability will mean more to your family than saving a dollar in a large estate.
For more information see, Planning a Will in Colorado, Bradford Publishing’s Legal Series.