Why Do I Need a Will?

Estate Planning
By Goodwin Como, P.C.

People who are of more modest means often think that a will is unnecessary. While that may be true to some extent, not having a will can cause serious problems for your family. Do not wait until it is too late—contact a qualified estate planning attorney to discuss how a will can serve those who matter most to you.

A Will Distributes Your Assets How You Want

When someone passes away, one of the most immediate questions is what happens to their assets. Does everything go to the surviving spouse? What if there is no surviving spouse? But what if there is a surviving parent and a surviving child—who inherits? Every state, including Pennsylvania, has laws that direct what will happen in the event that the decedent dies without a will or “intestate.” Referred to as “intestacy statutes,” these laws will govern the distribution of assets in any estate that is admitted to probate without variation. In other words, the heirs or other family members have no say over how estate assets will be distributed.

A will is a legal document that specifies exactly how you want your assets to be distributed and to whom. Having a validly executed will means that you can avoid the intestacy statutes, and you can have your assets distributed however you wish. For example, you could leave some of your assets to your surviving parents to ensure that they are cared for if you are unable to.

A Will Can Establish Guardianship

If you have children or someone you care for, you can use your will to determine who will care for them in the event of your death. Planning ahead in this way can ensure that your loved one’s needs are met without interruption. Otherwise, someone will have to file a petition with the court in order to establish a guardianship, which can be a time-consuming and expensive process.

Your Will Can Identify the Person Responsible for Managing Your Estate

One of the primary tasks involved in drafting a will is naming your personal representative. Your personal representative will play a very important role, which will include the following responsibilities:

  • They will identify and inventory estate assets
  • They will notify heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors
  • They will pay debts and other claims against the estate
  • They will shepherd the estate through the probate process
  • They will distribute the estate assets to the beneficiaries
  • They will prepare and file the final estate accounting with the probate court and close the estate

This may sound like a lot of work that can be avoided if you do not have a will. However, it is important to remember that your estate will still be subject to probate even if you do not have a will. In order to probate the estate, the court will appoint someone as the personal representative for your estate. This person may be someone you may not choose, who is insensitive to family dynamics, or simply lacks the diligence required to effectively discharge their responsibilities.

Contact Goodwin Como to Discuss Your Estate Planning Needs

Whether you need a will, need to update your will, or are considering other estate planning options, we can help you develop an estate plan that meets your unique needs. Contact us today by calling 724-438-1616 to schedule a free consultation.