The answer is yes! No matter your current situation, it is always a good idea to have your last wishes memorialized in writing. Your Last Will & Testament will be your final words and directives and it is important that your wishes are known to your family and heirs. Equally important, having a valid Will in place works to minimize confusion and prevents the court system from getting involved in dividing your estate. The loss of a loved one is a difficult experience and when your intentions are clear, the burden of not having to guess your wishes is a welcome relief for your heirs.
In addition to the important points above, failing to have a Will could have some surprising and potentially upsetting consequences depending on your state’s laws.
Dying without a Will is known as dying “intestate” and your estate would be subject to intestacy laws which vary state-by-state. Without knowing the consequences, a person may wonder ‘why do I need a Will? – once I pass away everything will go to my spouse and that is that.’ Not so – depending on by whom that person is survived, that may not be the case. For example, in New York if a person is survived by a spouse and children, one-half of the estate plus fifty thousand dollars will be inherited by the surviving spouse and the remainder of the estate’s assets is divided equally between the children.
In another example, let’s say a Pennsylvania resident dies and is survived by a spouse and a parent but no children. In this case, thirty thousand dollars plus one-half of the estate is inherited by the surviving spouse and the remainder would go to the surviving parent of the deceased. In both of these examples, the individual person’s family structure will dictate the line of succession but it is feasible that siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and grandchildren could be potential heirs.
Another point to note is that since the line of succession in the above-mentioned states only includes relatives, a person who may want to provide for a good friend, caretaker or colleague would be out of luck without a Will.
Having a validly-executed and well-drafted Will also eliminates potential windfalls for relatives you did not want to receive anything and ensures that you get to control who gets what after your death.