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Not having a will puts you and your family at risk

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 4:26pm | by Helen Hoart

Many younger professionals think it’s not necessary to have a Will or do any estate planning until they’re much older.  But that’s not the case.  Whether you’re in twenties or nineties, you need to protect yourself and your family.  Here's why:

If you die without a Will, you have died intestate.  In  that case, the state will get involved, and the state, not you, will determine who gets your property.   If you don’t own property and your estate is small, family members can file with a designated state agency and receive the assets of the estate. 

If you own property, are married or in a domestic partnership or have children, it’s more complicated if you die without a Will and state laws vary.  For example, if there are children some states will give children up to two-thirds of the estate while the spouse receives the remainder. If there are no children, some states may give the spouse the entire estate,  while others may pass along as little as one-third to the spouse and distribute the rest to parents and brothers and sisters.

The bottom line, though, is during a very difficult time of grief and mourning, the person who dies without a Will, makes the situation even more difficult.

You can find Will templates online or you can go to lawyer.  The legal templates are excellent if you have an uncomplicated estate.

Name a guardian: If you have children, it is extremely important to name a guardian who will be responsible for the care of your child if you die.  If you don’t do this, a judge will pick someone to become your child’s guardian. 

Another step to protect yourself and your family is to have an advanced directive and give someone your healthcare proxy.

Advance Directives are instructions about future medical care should you become unable to make decisions (for example, unconscious or too ill to communicate). Since each state regulates directives differently, check to see what your state’s regulations are.  Sometimes an Advance Directive is called a living will, which takes effect when the patient is terminally ill.

A healthcare proxy is given to the person who has the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to.  Most people appoint a spouse, family member or close friend. Whoever you choose it’s important to discuss with that person what medical treatment and medical intervention you want or don’t want.  Be very clear. 

For people with larger estates,  consulting a professional  is advisable.

But no matter the size of your estate, begin planning now.  It’s never too early!

What else have you done to protect your family?

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