According to legal publisher LexisNexis, approximately 45% of those living in the United States have a Will. This is actually a pretty conservative number as other studies show numbers are even lower. Younger people are even less likely to have a Will than older people.
I highly recommend everyone to get a Will prepared. Some people have the misconception that having a Will means you have to go to Court to “Probate” said Will for your loved ones to receive your assets upon your death. Therefore, not having one made means they can avoid Court. Unfortunately, that is not true. With a Will, the Probate Court is used to establish the validity of a Will. You are the one that decides who gets your assets and how much they get. You appoint an Executor to carry out those wishes exactly as spelled out in your Will. Without a Will, a Probate Judge will appoint an Administrator to gather your assets, liquidate them, and then distribute according to state law statutes.
Typically, any asset that has a title or deed requires a Probate process to administer. The type of assets that fall into this category are all real property (homes and land), mobile homes, vehicles, boats, and trailers. Other assets such as Life Insurance, Bank Accounts and Retirement Accounts holding stocks or bonds will require probate only if you fail to designate a beneficiary during your lifetime. If all you own is furniture, jewelry and other personal items (that do not have any documentation to establish ownership) then you may avoid opening a Probate Estate.
The reason I say “may” is that if any of your heirs begin to fight over your furniture or jewelry, then a Probate Estate must be established and the Probate Judge will appoint the Administrator to liquidate the assets as designated by state law statutes. Even though during your lifetime you told your daughter “I want you to have my great grandmother’s priceless pearl earrings and my best friend gets my car”, the Administrator is under no obligation to adhere to those wishes. The Administrator will likely be compelled by state law to sell those family heirlooms and distribute the proceeds by statute. It is oftentimes more expensive to not have a Will. The Administrator will usually be required to purchase a bond and spend much more time requesting and attending Court Hearings to obtain Court Orders to administer your estate. In opposition, your Executor, who is usually relieved of the burden and expense of purchasing a bond through your Will, needs very little if any Court guidance because your Will tells them exactly what to do.
On the other hand, you can simply call one of our conveniently located offices at Bond & Botes to set up a private consultation with one of our experienced attorneys. We can draft a Will for you very economically and you can be the one that decides how to divide your assets when you die.
Grant McNutt is a Managing Attorney at the Bond & Botes Law Offices in Florence and Haleyville, Alabama. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Alabama, and a Juris Doctorate from the Birmingham School of Law. He has been practicing Consumer Bankruptcy Law since 1999. Read his full bio here.