What is a Will?
A Will is a legal document containing your instructions and wishes as to how your estate is to be distributed after your death. An individual’s “estate” is simply all of that person’s assets, including clothes, jewelry, cars, land, house, bank accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, bonds and just about any other tangible or intangible property one may own.
Do I Need a Will?
The honest answer to this question is that no one needs a will, very much like the fact that no one needs life insurance or health insurance. The real question that must be addressed is whether it is prudent, under your particular circumstances, to have a will. In answering this question, you must consider the following:
- In New York, a will (or a trust, as discussed below) is one of the only ways to be certain that your assets, which you have worked a lifetime to accumulate, are passed on to the people and /or organizations of your choice. In the absence of a valid will, New York State Law will decide who gets your assets and how much they will get.
- For those who have minor children (a child under the age of 18 years) or are planning to have children in the future, a will is one of the only ways to appoint a guardian of your choice to care for your child(ren) and manage their finances after your death and the death of your spouse. If no guardian is appointed for your minor child(ren), and neither you nor your spouse are alive, the Court will engage in the expensive and time-consuming task of appointing a guardian of its own choosing for your child(ren): a cost that your family will bear. Your present nomination of a guardian could avoid this unnecessary time and expense, and the possibility of a “tug of war” between well-meaning family members.
- A properly drafted will can protect your assets, after death, from those whom you do not wish to benefit (such as a child’s spouse) and can arrange for assets to be wisely distributed to those family members and loved ones that may lack the experience, discretion or ability to properly handle such assets.
The above factors, although only a fraction of what must be contemplated, represent some of the most important considerations in deciding whether having a will is in the best interest of you and your family.