Why does everyone need a will?
Without a Will
- You can direct
the distribution of your assets to those you care about most.
- You can choose
a personal representative (executor) who will oversee the distribution
of your assets.
- You avoid unnecessary
expenses on the administration of the estate.
- You can provide
appropriately for minor children by naming a guardian or establishing
- You can provide
for family members, friends, or relatives according to their needs.
- You can save considerable
estate tax by utilizing proper estate planning techniques.
- You can provide
support for charitable causes that have a special meaning for you.
- State intestacy
statutes determine the distribution of your property.
- The court appoints
an administrator for you.
- Because the administrator
is subject to constant court supervision, the cost of administering
the estate may be greater.
- You cannot provide
for minors. The court will appoint a guardian for them, and the guardian
will make decisions about a child's care that you should have made.
- Your heirs will
benefit equally by class not necessarily in the proportions you would
- Your estate may
lose thousands of dollars in needless taxes because you did not take
advantage of the tax-saving opportunities available to you.
- You cannot support
a charitable cause.
Some of the reasons
people use for not having a will include:
- "I don't have
Each of us has property worthy of distribution to someone-an automobile,
bank account, stereo, home computer, furniture, jewelry, paintings,
china, etc. Even if everything were sold at an estate auction, it would
probably yield several thousand dollars which could be useful to your
- "My property
is in joint names.
This is a trap into which many people fall. Having property in joint
name is no excuse for not having a will. In the event of a common disaster,
you will have no distribution plan. Or, the other joint tenant could
predecease you. Having everything in joint name is also a bad estate
plan because the first spouse to die loses the benefit of his or her
lifetime estate tax exemption.
- "My spouse will
get everything anyway."
This is an invalid premise. If you die without a will, your children
may share in a major part of the estate. Your spouse may predecease
you, or you may get a divorce. Both of you may die in a common disaster
with the result that everything will be left up to chance. (For example)
Did you know that if you die without a will in Massachusetts, your children
share in the estate? Do you want your 21 year old college student to
receive a percentage of your estate rather than having it all go to
- "I'm young.
I have plenty of time."
A review of the obituaries will show that death is not a state reserved
only for the elderly. Many people in their forties and fifties and younger
die from all kinds of unexpected accidents and diseases. (The number
of court appointed guardians after 9/11/01 should be a reminder that
we're surrounded by uncertainty.)
- "I'm not married
so I don't need a will."
This is all the more reason why you need one. Who knows what haphazard
distribution will result from a distribution under state laws in your
- "My wife and
I already split out estates into two revocable trusts. Everything worthwhile
is in the name of either my trust or my wife's trust and will be distributed
according to the terms we have outlined."
Each of you still needs a pour-over will that simply provides for anything
standing in your name alone upon your death to be distributed to your
trust. Then, the trust takes over the distribution plan. It is very
unlikely not to own something outside the revocable trust at death.
Moreover, some people set up living trusts but neglect to fund them.
Excerpted with permission from The Complete Guide to Planned Giving by
pages 273-4, copyright 2004, Ashton Associates, Quincy, MA
For more information or a confidential discussion of your charitable options, please email or call the Development Officer, Roxanna Tinsley, at (843) 777-2694.