What Is a Will and When Do You Need One?

Anyone who has ever lost a loved one knows the fundamental truth behind this statement: life is always easier for the survivors if the deceased has a will that leaves clear, precise instructions.

Wills can clearly lay out how someone who dies wants their estate spent, including demarcating possession of items and financial assets. They are very important documents and can be of great utility.

What Is a Will and What Does It Cover?

To be specific, a will may determine what will happen to all of your physical assets after your death. This includes physical things that you own, intellectual property that you have created, and all of your financial assets.

To be clear, it does not make other legal arrangements, like determining who becomes your Power of Attorney in the event you are physically incapacitated. That is a different document entirely. According to the experts at GoodTrust, “When utilizing an online estate management service, you can specify what will happen to your individual accounts, without your executor having to take action.”

A will can also lay out a few specific positions that are necessary to the settlement of an estate. For example, the executor of will – as appointed by the will itself – will be the person who is in charge of actually making sure that the will’s requests are fulfilled. This person will manage the distribution of assets, ensure that all requests are being honored, manage paperwork, and more.

When Do You Need One?

Here’s the truth: Everyone should have a will as soon as they become a legal adult. In most circumstances, the oldest you can have a will is when you are an adult, which is 18 in America.

Many young adults or newly married couples assume that a will is not necessary until they get older, as they do not have to worry about dying. Thankfully, in most cases, this is correct.

However, tragically, there are instances in which an otherwise healthy young adult will die in an accident or of some sudden illness. Given the realities of life, having a will can help guard against uncertainty and help create provisions for your spouse and survivors.

What Happens If You Don’t Have a Will?

Unfortunately, your survivors will be in a very difficult situation – one that may be exacerbated if there are conflicts about potential inheritances.

Of course, the specifics vary from state to state. They also depend on whether or not you are married, as in most cases, a spouse will, by default, collect on her spouse’s assets. However, an estate will go to the probate court, meaning that a judge will ultimately rule on what happens to an estate.

The heirs and survivors will get little to no say. Furthermore, an estate going to probate is time-consuming – it may take years to resolve – and expensive.

As the above makes clear, having a will is unquestionably preferable to not having one. No matter how old you are, if you have possessions and heirs, your best bet is to create a will that clearly lays out what will happen to your assets upon your death.


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