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What is a Simple Will?

Estate Planners | Monday, July 4th, 2011

A simple will is, as the name implies, simple. This type of will is usually either written out on one’s own, or by filling out a generic form, or by downloading a statutory “fill in the blank” form from a website online. The simple will is widely available and fairly easy to use, but it can be risky to make a will without first consulting an attorney or estate planner, even if your estate is meager and you are single. Further, since the laws that govern the distribution of property and assets vary from state to state, not all simple will form are alike, and not all are recognized by every state.

Reasons for Making a Will

There are many reasons that all adults need a will, even if they own very little. You need a will because:

* Dying without a will leaves everything “up in the air” when it comes to the disposal of your property and your assets, even if you own very little. Dying intestate (without a will) subjects the property and assets in your estate to the laws that govern intestacy in your state. Thus, if you want to be sure that your girlfriend gets your car when you die, you need a will. Otherwise, a judge will determine who gets what. A judge will not be allowed to take into account any desires that you may or may have voiced, or any special circumstances that exist within your family. The judge will be required to enforce the law as it applies to intestacy.

* If you have children, a simple will can allow you to name who you wish to bestow guardianship upon if you die unexpectedly.

* A properly prepared will can help to reduce the amount of estate tax (death tax) that your heirs will pay on the assets and property within your estate. If you die without a will, the government will get a huge chunk of whatever you leave behind before your beneficiaries see a dime.

* Alongside your will, you can establish a trust that can be used to provide an income stream for your minor children, young adult children, or disabled children after you are gone. A trusted representative can help to manage assets in the trust (as a trustee) until such time as your children are competent and old enough to receive money or property from the trust.

* Your will allows you to make gifts to your favorite charity upon your death.

Why See an Estate Planner

While many people are comfortable with using a simple will when planning their estates, doing so may be foolhardy. There are many complexities and intricacies involved in estate planning that require the expertise and knowledge of an estate planner. The cost of having a legally binding written will prepared is nominal when compared to the benefit that a will brings to your family if you were to pass away, and the peace of mind that you will have in knowing that your wishes are recorded legally. Relying on a simple will that you download online to be held up in a court of law so that your assets and property are distributed per your wishes can be a mistake that will cost your family in the future.

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