Why do I need a will?
1. You have minor children.
You should write a will in order to appoint guardians for your minor children, and trustees to manage their property. If you do not leave a will, the court may appoint a guardian whom you would not have chosen.
You also need to write a will in order to prevent minor children from inheriting real estate outright. Although minors have the legal capacity to own property, they do not have legal capacity to manage it. If your children inherit a share of your house, your spouse would not be able to sell it, rent it out, or even refinance the mortgage without a court order. Getting court orders is expensive and time consuming. Although children generally do not inherit community property in the absence of a will, they do inherit a share of your separate property. In many families, the primary residence is partly separate property because the down payment was made with a gift from parents or with money earned by the spouses before marriage. (See the FAQ on community property.)2. You have no chidren.
Do you know what would happen to your property if you died right now without a will? You might be surprised to find out that your spouse might not inherit everything. If you and your spouse have no children, your parents or siblings might inherit part of your home and become co-owners with your spouse. Your spouse would not be able to sell the house or other property without their permission, and vice versa. If you want to remember your parents or siblings in your will, it is best to leave them specific pieces of property that they will not have to share with your spouse. A will can accomplish this.3. You have a large family.
All of your heirs will become co-owners of every asset you own, and will have to manage all the property together. They may not live in the same state, or they may not be able to agree on what should be done with the property. The more heirs you have, the more money and effort they will have to spend trying to get organized. With a will, you could leave specific assets to specific heirs, or put one heir in charge as trustee for the others. Either way, writing a will would save your heirs significant hassle and expense. It could also prevent major feuding.4. You own real estate.
In the absence of a will, real estate is likely to be inherited by minors or numerous co-owners, and either result will be costly. A little estate planning now can save your heirs significant expense and trouble later.5. None of the above.
Even if you do not think you need a will, you should still see an estate planner to draw up powers of attorney for health care and financial matters. If you become incapacitated by illness or accident, a power of attorney will be critical to allow a friend or loved one to pay your bills and make health care decisions for you. These simple documents not only save money later, but they give you the security of knowing things will be taken care of in your absence.