People frequently make the mistake of believing that they do not need to create and execute a Last Will and Testament. The reality, however, is that everyone over the age of 18 should have at least a basic Will in place. A better understanding of what happens without a Will should help you understand who should have a Last Will and Testament.
A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that allows you to decide who will receive your estate assets in the event of your death. If you are young you may be under the impression that you don’t have enough in the way of assets to warrant creating a Will. You may think that it is better to wait until you have “made your fortune” to create a Will. Consider, however, what can happen without a Will.
If you die intestate, or without leaving behind a valid Will, the Illinois intestate succession laws will determine what happens to your assets. Although you may not have amassed a fortune yet, just about everyone dies owning some assets. If you are employed, you may be contributing to a retirement plan which counts as an asset. You may also be purchasing your home, in which case any equity you have in the home is an asset. Even your personal possessions are an asset. In fact, sometimes those personal possessions include items with great sentimental value. Without a Will to direct the disposition of those assets, the State of Illinois will decide what happens to them. Typically, this means that a spouse and/or children will receive the assets. If you are unmarried and have no children, your parents or siblings may be entitled to your estate assets. Unfortunately, to create an equal disposition pursuant to the intestate succession laws your assets may have to be sold. Therefore, a treasured baseball collection or family heirloom may be sold instead of gifted to the intended beneficiary. Your Will is your only opportunity to make sure that items end up where you want them to be when you die.
If you do have a child, your Will is also the only opportunity you have to nominate a guardian for your child. In the event both parents are unable, or unwilling, to care for the child the court will have to appoint a guardian. Without guidance from your Will it is possible the court will appoint someone you would not have approved yourself. A Will also appoints a trusted person you select to wind up your personal, financial and tax affairs. Without a Will, the Intestate Law will govern who has preference in selecting that person.
The bottom line is that everyone needs a Last Will and Testament. To ensure that your Will is valid and properly executed consult with an experienced Illinois estate planning attorney.
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