On January 1, tradition compels us to form our New Year’s resolutions…get healthy, become more organized, spend more time with our families, or start new hobbies…One resolution might be to “get my affairs in order” or “make a will.” Sounds great, but what does that mean? And does it matter? Maybe because it sounds a bit intimidating and difficult, it’s tempting to put this resolution on the back burner. Let’s take away the mystery so you can make getting a will a resolution you can keep this year!
Simply put, a will is a written plan stating your wishes for (1) who you want to wind up your affairs (appoint an executor), (2) take care of your children (designate a guardian), and (3) receive your belongings when you die (make distributions to beneficiaries). If done properly, your plan guides the probate court and your family to ensure your belongings, and especially your children, end up in the right hands.
Some may think that they don’t need a will unless they are wealthy, own a home, or have kids. That is a myth. If you don’t have a valid will, the State of Georgia will decide through “intestate succession” who gets your assets based on their legal or blood relationship to you. For example, without a will stating otherwise, a live-in partner has no legal right to receive any of your belongings. Instead, your assets could end up being distributed to a sibling, a parent, or that cousin who never worked a day in his life! Also, not having a will can lead to (1) a more expensive and time-consuming probate process, (2) family arguments or litigation, or (3) payment of taxes, court-imposed bonds (insurance), or accounting requirements for your estate.
In short, the costs of not having a will, regardless of the stage of life you are in, can far exceed the costs of putting one in place. As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Getting a will is definitely an “ounce of prevention” and a resolution worth keeping!