Do I Need a Will?

No one wants to think about the need for a will, and many people try to tell themselves that they don’t actually need one. However, everyone over 18 should have this crucial estate planning document.

To understand why, it’s important to understand what a will can do and what happens if you don’t have one.

A Will Provides Instructions for the Future

Many people have no idea what to do when a loved one passes away. When a family member leaves a will, that document provides a critical lifeline at a time when people are desperately looking for guidance.

Preparing a will lets your loved ones know that you care for them. It lets people know who you want to manage your final affairs, who you want to receive your property, and who you want to serve as guardian for your kids if you leave minor children behind. Your intentions will be clear and enforceable, providing comfort and stability at a challenging time for your family.

A Will Allows You to Protect Loved Ones

Do you know what happens if you pass away without any will or estate planning? If you die “intestate,” meaning without a will, Virginia law governs how your estate will be distributed and determines who qualifies as your “heir.” For most people, Virginia law first distributes your estate to your spouse and children if you have them. This can be heartbreaking if you have a long-term partner because your significant other may not receive any of your property. It can also create conflict in blended families.

Virginia’s intestacy laws also don’t consider any promises you have made to people or if a relative hasn’t spoken to you in years. If an individual is next in the chain to inherit, they will receive your property.

You can control your legacy and protect your loved ones by creating a will. Your will might provide for a friend or distant relative who needs assistance or support for your favorite cause to leave a meaningful legacy for the future. A will enables you to protect and support the ones you love.

A Will Enables You to Designate a Leader

In every family, we all have some relatives who are organized and responsible with money and others who are not. When you pass away, the person who administers your estate must inventory and protect your assets, pay bills and taxes due, and meet a host of legal requirements. 

When you create a will, you can choose who you want to serve in that role. If you die without a will, the court could name someone who is completely unprepared to fulfill the duties, which can lead to tremendous waste and delays.

A Will Can Provide for Your Minor Children

No one wants to imagine a situation where they cannot raise their children, but if the worst should happen, it is best to be prepared. In a will, you can nominate a guardian you trust to take over the responsibilities of raising your children if the worst should happen.

Additionally, your will can include provisions setting up a testamentary trust if you should pass away before your children reach adulthood. The trust could provide for the management of assets for their living expenses, education, and other needs.

Even if You Have a Trust, It’s Still a Good Idea to Create a Will

Many people set up revocable living trusts that enable their property to pass to loved ones outside the probate process. An estate plan built around a trust can reduce the burdens on your family in the future, but it is still wise to have a will as a backup.

Sometimes, property gets left out of a trust, and if you don’t have a will, that property will be subject to the laws of intestate succession. If you also have what’s called a “pour-over will,” any property left out of the trust can be funneled into the trust when you pass on. This maintains privacy and keeps your estate plan cohesive. Since a trust cannot be used to nominate a guardian for minor children, a pour-over might also be essential for that purpose. 

Jennifer Porter Law, PLLC, Can Prepare the Right Will for Your Unique Needs 

The team at Jennifer Porter Law, PLLC helps clients in Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, and the Peninsula to create comprehensive estate plans designed for specific goals. Rather than providing one-size-fits-all documents, we build custom estate plans to meet your family’s needs. Contact Jennifer Porter Law, PLLC, at (571) 532-9070 today to begin creating your estate plan in Virginia.