One of the most common questions we are asked is “When should I start planning a Will?” Regardless of the individual’s age, net worth, or marital status, the answer is always the same — NOW. Like many people who ask that question, you may be under the mistaken belief that you need to reach a certain age, amass a small fortune, or have dependents before you need a Last Will and Testament. The truth, however, is that everyone over the age of 18 should have a Will in place and should update that Will on a regular basis.
What Is a Will?
A Last Will and Testament is a legally binding testament, usually in writing, that allows you to make gifts of assets from your estate to designated beneficiaries. In addition, a Will also allows you to make two additional important decisions — appointing someone to be the Executor of your estate and naming a Guardian for your minor children. The Executor of your estate is responsible for overseeing the probate of your estate following your death while a Guardian is someone who has the legal authority to care for your children. One thing you may not know is that your Will is the only opportunity you have to tell a judge who you would want to take over the care of your children if you are no longer here to do it yourself.
Why Do You Need to Start Planning Your Will Now?
Despite understanding the importance of having an estate plan in place, over half of all Americans do not have one. If you have yet to create even have a simple Last Will and Testament, you are not alone. Why do people put off creating a Will? While there are many reasons, the two most common reasons given for failing to execute a valid Will are:
- “I thought you only need a Last Will and Testament if you have a substantial amount of money and/or valuable assets.
- “I thought I only need to execute a Will after I get married and/or have children.”
Though these are commonly given explanations, the truth is that every adult should have a Will without regard to age or financial status. Yes, your estate plan will likely grow and become more complex as you age and the value of your estate increases; however, you can benefit from having a Will in place at any age and with just a modest estate. If you are over the age of 18 and have yet to start creating your Last Will and Testament, now is the time to do it..
Simply telling you that a Will is necessary may not be enough to get you started though because you have yet to hear why having a Will in place is so important. Sometimes, the best way to convince someone of the need to do something is to explain what happens if they don’t do it. If you die without a Will in place your estate will be considered an “intestate” estate. As such, the North Dakota intestate succession laws will determine what happens to your assets. If you leave behind a valid Last Will and Testament you are said to have died “testate” and the terms of your Will decide who receives your estate assets at the end of the probate process. Probate is the legal process required following the death of an individual.
If you die intestate you give up the right to decide what happens to your assets. Instead, the North Dakota intestate succession laws will dictate who will receive your estate assets and in what proportion. You may not have much of an estate right now; however, you never know when your estate will grow. You could get a job offer tomorrow making triple what you make today, win the lottery and become a millionaire, or find that you were left a small fortune by a recently deceased relative. Because life and death are unpredictable, your windfall could be followed by your untimely death, leaving a fortune to be distributed according to the laws of the State of North Dakota instead of your wishes. You will also not be able to decide who administers your estate during probate because you chose not to appoint an Executor in your Will. Finally, if you are a parent, or you plan to be in the future, the most powerful incentive to not die intestate is often the simple fact that doing so means you give up the opportunity to express your wishes with regard to a Guardian for your child.
If you have additional questions about creating a Will in the State of North Dakota please contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at German Law by calling 701-738-0060 to schedule an appointment.