People often ask me if they really must have a Will. Though you might think I would always answer yes, sometimes the answer is no. You should only spend money on legal services if you obtain value from the work.
There are several key considerations to think through to determine if you need a Will - all factors ultimately come down to whether you are OK with your state's default rules on dividing property when you die and whether they suit your circumstances. Please call or contact me via my website to discuss your unique situation and develop an estate planning solution best for you.
Family Composition and Dynamics
If you have young children, a child with special needs, or an adult child with money issues you likely need a Will regardless of your net worth. A Will is one of the most efficient and proven ways to identify a guardian and provide for your young children, set aside funds for a special needs child (while also allowing them to keep disability benefits), or adult child with credit problems.
Would family dynamics be quickly complicated if someone received your assets when you die? This question is not as easy to answer but is very worthy of your consideration when debating whether to get a Will.
State Intestate Distribution Rules
If you die without a Will, you are intestate and your assets will be distributed according to your state's intestate succession statutes. Each state has laws on the books which define how a person's property will transfer when they die. In South Carolina, it all depends on whether you are married, have children, have parents still alive, and have siblings living. Look for a blog post on the coming weeks for a more in-depth discussion of intestate succession in South Carolina.
Probate or Non-Probate Property
Inventory your assets and categorize them in two buckets - Probate and Non-Probate. Below are two very simplified definitions of probate and non-probate property. The examples I provide are for illustration only and are not meant to be comprehensive:
Probate Property - Any asset without a beneficiary designation. Most common examples include vehicles, bank accounts without a beneficiary, homes and real property not deeded with "right of survivorship."
Non-Probate Property - Any asset with a beneficiary designation. Examples include bank accounts with pay on death designees, homes and other real property which are deeded to someone as "right of survivorship", Individual Retirement Accounts, and Life Insurance.