This happens more than you would think, and if you own anything, you might consider having a will. When a person’s final wishes are not made clear in a will, it leaves the person’s family without clear direction on what the person really would have wanted. Be thoughtful enough to let your family you have handled the final details.
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Without a will, there’s no guarantee that when you die your money will go to the people you want or that your children will be cared for by the person you believe will do the best job.
This may come as a shock, but if you die without a valid will, state laws require that your property be divided according to a fairly inflexible formula. In most states your spouse, if you have one, would receive only about one-third to one-half of your estate. The rest would be earmarked for your children.
Sounds fine, but without a will, in some states a state-appointed administrator (who charges fees for the service) would control your children’s money until each child turned 18. That means your spouse wouldn’t be able to access the money to help raise your children without going through a very complicated legal procedure. And even if the courts decided that your spouse could hold the funds earmarked for your children in trust, he or she would have to supply the court with an accounting of how the money is used each year.
Moreover, if you and your partner both died without a will, the state courts and social services department would appoint someone to raise your children. And that person might have very different ideas about parenting than you do. Even if you think you have almost no property to leave your children, it’s worth making a will to make sure you get to choose their guardian.