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Four reasons you should have a will

Many people avoid thinking about death, their own or otherwise. This, among other reasons, prevents many people from creating a will. However, the future is uncertain. You may not be able to predict when you will die, but with a will you can plan some of what will happen when that time comes. Below are four of the best reasons why every adult should have a will.

Determine who gets what

The first and perhaps most obvious reason to have a will is to decide how your estate will be distributed. While most people understand that you can use a will to specify who you want your good china or your car to go to, few people understand what the alternative is.

Dying without a will is called dying intestate. If that happens, Massachusetts intestate succession laws will determine who will inherit from your estate. This could be problematic if you are not married to your significant other, if you are estranged from some of your biologically close relatives, or if you have a blended family. Because relationships are generally complicated, you can prevent arguments and unintended heirs by clarifying your wishes in a will.

Select an executor

The second reason to have a will is to decide who will manage and distribute your estate. This person, called an executor, is typically responsible for distributing your assets the way you specified in your will, maintaining your house until the estate is settled, paying any outstanding bills or taxes for your estate and making court appearances for your estate.

Most of the time people will choose close loved ones, like a spouse, adult child or sibling to be the executor of their estates. If you do not name someone as the executor, the court can do so, but it is often better when you can choose for yourself someone who you trust and who will not instigate a fight within the family.

Set up care for loved ones

Another reason to have a will is to determine who will provide care for loved ones, like minor children or pets. If you do not have a will, a court will choose someone to become the guardian for your minor children. However, the court may not be able to take into consideration all the family dynamics that you as a parent may prioritize, such as the close relationship your children have with a favorite uncle or that your sister’s parenting style is similar to your own.

You can also use a will to designate someone to provide care for your pets. Without clear instructions, your loved ones may fight among themselves over who will take care of your beloved pet. Alternatively, if you do not arrange for care in advance, your pet could end up with no one willing to provide care for it. Many animals whose owners die end up in animal shelters.

Minimize estate taxes

Another reason it is beneficial to have a will is to minimize estate taxes. The value of items you give to family, friends and charity reduces the value of your estate. When the value of your estate is reduced it will be charged fewer taxes.

Deciding to draw up a will or not is a personal decision. However, the benefits to having a will almost always outweigh whatever drawbacks people may perceive.

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