At least half or more of the U.S. population doesn’t have a Will. So why should you? There are several reasons why you may wish to have a valid Will in place. First, if you want to be the one to decide who should receive your personal and real property (your house or investment property), then it is important to execute a Will. Without one, the State of Georgia makes these decisions for you, after the estate pays your creditors.
Another reason to consider having a Will executed, is so that you can be the one to determine who will care for your children should something happen to you. Without a Will, the decision is made by the Probate Court in the county you reside within the State of Georgia. Any funds you may have been setting aside for your child or children that are subject to probate will generally be given directly to each respective child upon their turning the age of twenty-one. If it is your opinion that a twenty-one year old may not exactly know what to do with all of your funds upon receipt, you are not alone. Putting a Will in place will enable you to place those funds in a testamentary trust and provide more specific instructions to the Trustee as to how to handle those funds for the child until he/she is old enough to receive them. Further, choosing that Trustee becomes your decision as well, so long as you include that in your Will.
Not having a Will in place can also increase the costs of administering the estate. Without a Will, a Court must appoint a personal representative. This representative may not be someone you would have chosen, and they have a right to demand payment out of the estate for performing this duty. If real estate needs to be sold, the agent will be chosen by this personal representative and can charge as much in commission as is reasonable. Further, the personal representative will have to put up a bond in most cases for the approximate value of the estate, so that they are accountable for the assets that will be distributed. If they use a bond company, these funds often come out of the estate as well. All of these fees and expenses may be avoided or substantially decreased by having a Will in place. The Federal Estate Tax is another issue for discussion regarding costing you a chunk of the estate, but that will be discussed in detail in another blog.
These are only a few of the reasons why one would choose to execute a Will. Other reasons may include asset protection, tax planning, to set up testamentary trusts for a disabled relative or friend, the list goes on. The question really isnt whether you need a Will, but how do you get started?
This article was written by Dara Berger. Mrs. Berger is an estate planning and immigration attorney in Atlanta, who occasionally contributes to this blog. She can be reached at [email protected].