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Importance of having a will

If Not Now, When? The Importance of Having a Will

If Not Now, When? The Importance of Having a Will

If there is one thing we have learned from the past few years, it is to expect the unexpected. While we may not like to consider our own mortality, it is important to think about the future and develop a picture of what it looks like after we are gone. Have you made your end-of-life wishes known? Creating a will is a crucial step in making sure your wishes are respected and your legacy lives on.

According to a 2021 Gallup poll, slightly less than half of U.S. adults (46 percent) have a will.1 Unsurprisingly, just more than three-quarters of Americans aged 65 and older reported having one. But what is a will, really, and is it important to create one?

What is a will?

A will is a legal document that describes your wishes regarding the distribution of your property (real and personal) and the care of any minor children after your death. The will names the heirs to whom property will transfer and the amount of their inheritance. The will also names the executor, the person responsible for carrying out the provisions of the will.

What makes a will legal?

Requirements vary by state, but generally the testator (person making the will) must be 18 years old and of sound mind, and the will must be signed by the testator and two witnesses.

Why are wills important?

Although assets transferring under the will’s provisions will be subject to the probate (formal legal) process, there are a number of benefits of having a will:

  • You can decide who gets what and how much: Individually-owned property is transferred according to the terms expressed in the will.
  • You can identify who should care for your children: A legal guardian for children under the age of majority and a custodian or trustee of property can be appointed in the will. If not addressed in the will, the court will appoint individuals to serve in both roles.
  • You can choose who will be responsible to carry out your wishes as laid out in the will: In a properly executed will, you can name an executor, a person who will represent you (the deceased) in the probate process to manage distribution of assets from the estate. Without a will, the court will appoint an administrator to function in the same capacity.

At what age should I write a will?

There is no right age to write a will, but you might want to consider it if you are of legal age, have something to bequeath after your death, or if you have minor children. Sometimes experiencing significant life events will prompt one to begin their estate planning.

In short, if you do not have a will, upon your death, your separately-owned assets will be distributed according to state laws. These laws determine who will gain custody of minor children, as well as how and to whom the property will be distributed. Keep in mind, a will is effective only at death and does not help govern your estate if you become incapacitated.

Like all documents created for estate planning purposes, a will should be reviewed on a regular basis. A trust officer or attorney can help you get started. D.A. Davidson Trust Company also offers “What My Family Should Know,” a workbook that enables you to document various aspects of your life, including important financial information and the location of personal documents, such as your will.

While we cannot predict what the future holds, the actions we take today can ensure that our loved ones are protected after we are gone and that our assets are transferred as we intend.

How Many Americans Have a Will?

This material is being provided for educational and informational purposes only. D.A. Davidson & Co. is a registered broker-dealer and registered investment adviser that does not provide tax or legal advice. Information contained herein has been obtained by sources we consider reliable, but is not guaranteed and we are not soliciting any action based upon it. Any opinions expressed are based on our interpretation of the data available to us at the time of the original article. These opinions are subject to change at any time without notice. Copyright D.A. Davidson & Co., 2022. All rights reserved. Member FINRA and SIPC.