Did you know you need a will? You really do. Creating a will can make certain that your assets are transferred the way that you wanted. If you decide to go “commando”—sans will—there’ll be a few dangers that your family may encounter. If you live in California and your gross estate exceeds $150,000, you may also need a trust to avoid probate.
Nerd Wallet’s recent article, “5 Hidden Dangers of Not Having a Will,” lists some of the most challenging issues, reminding you why it’s so important to have an up-to-date, signed will.
- Spendthrift heirs. It’s pretty rare that a child can handle a large sum of money all at once. Some heirs are just bad at handling money, and others may have addiction issues—like gambling or abusing illegal substances. Either way, handing them a windfall can enable bad habits and anger other beneficiaries. Those who didn’t get as much might hire lawyers to fight the proposed distribution.
- Unexpected or contested heirs. Sometimes there can be confusion and questions about the actual beneficiaries of an estate. Someone might appear unexpectedly during the settlement.
- Property (and probate) in more than one state. If you have property in several states, dying without a will can result in some of your estate having to go through probate in multiple states. This can be costly and time-consuming—particularly if each beneficiary hires an attorney in each state. Let’s do a quick math problem: there are three beneficiaries with estate property in four states. How many attorneys might be hired? Answer: 12.
- Fraudulent wills. If there’s no will in place, it gives the opportunity for a treasure seeker to make a fake, particularly if you have a big estate. Remember Howard Hughes? He died with no immediate family and no will. Within a short period of time there were several purported wills claiming to be the legitimate one. His estate spent millions defending against the fake documents. It’s harder to do this these days with more sophisticated analysis tools, but why subject your heirs to potential headaches and unnecessary legal bills?
- Beneficiaries don’t like the appointed court executor. When there’s no will, there’s no designated executor—so the probate court appoints one. Although it’s typically an experienced attorney, the beneficiaries may not get along with this person. An executor must take time in his or her busy schedule to inventory, appraise and distribute the estate; however, it may not be quick enough for the heirs. Generally, family members will do a faster job as executors—maybe because they’re often also beneficiaries.
These are five big problems you can eliminate for your family. Have a will prepared by an experienced estate attorney, and do it ASAP.
One of the main goals of our law practice is to help families like yours plan for the safe, successful transfer of wealth to the next generation. Call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about your estate plan, where we can identify the best strategies for you and your family to ensure your legacy of love and financial security. Our office is located in Santa Ana, CA but we serve all of California including Irvine, Orange, Tustin, Newport Beach, and Anaheim.
Reference: Nerd Wallet (August 3, 2016) “5 Hidden Dangers of Not Having a Will”