Watch Our Educational Masterclass!

Get The

Peace Of Mind

You Deserve

Why Is Having a Will Important?

Estate Planning For Life's Stages

Attorney describing to client the importance of a will and last testament in their estate plan.
A striking proportion of Americans don’t have one. Nontraditional families are left uniquely vulnerable.

Many studies reveal that fewer than half of American adults have an estate plan, including a last will and testament detailing how they want property to be divided and distributed. Some people choose “alternative” types of estate planning—which may or may not succeed—others may draft a will late in life, and many never get around to it at all. However, the stakes are higher than most people imagine.

Keep reading to learn more about the importance of establishing an estate plan for your family.

What happens if I don’t have a will in place when I die?

Without establishing a will & estate plan, control of your hard-earned assets upon your passing is given over to a decades-old system where your loved ones won’t have any say in what happens. Every state has laws to designate heirs automatically, known as intestate-succession laws. They vary depending on the jurisdiction. However, the hierarchy for distribution is traditional and inflexible:

  • If there is a spouse, the spouse receives most of the estate.
  • Not married? The children are the next inheritors.
  • No children? Biological parents or siblings are next in line.

Non-married, nonbiological family members will not receive any inheritance if there is no will. These laws were created decades ago and have not been updated to reflect the complexity of today’s American families. Nontraditional families, in particular, could be disinherited if no estate plan is in place. It sounds harsh—and it is. Despite the number of cohabitating people nearly tripling in the last 20 years, many states, such as Missouri, do not have specific laws granting inheritance rights to non-married partners.

Challenges also exist if a child is raised by a family but never formally adopted. The court’s position is the child is not next-of-kin. For blended families, the situations become even more tangled. Say a woman with a biological son divorces the son’s father and remarries. If she dies without a will, everything will pass to her new spouse, and the biological child, if receiving anything, will receive a small share. If her second spouse remarries and dies without a will, the child will be disinherited again, even though there may be remaining assets originally belonging to the mother.

As the examples above show, estate planning is highly important to ensure your partner inherits what you designate.

Why might someone not have an estate plan?

While there are many reasons for not having a will & last testament, one is the simple fact that people do not want to think about their own deaths. However, this stance may prevent your loved ones from receiving your inheritance when you die. It’s imperative to start protecting your legacy – and your family – now.

How do I establish an estate plan?

Many people of modest means have property to pass along to heirs, from houses to personal property. A study found people with six-figure incomes had more than double the rate of wills than those who earned less than $25,000. While wealthy people may have more assets to protect, it’s also important for people of modest means to protect their families and their assets with an estate plan.

The best way to establish an estate plan is to work with an experienced estate planning attorney. Together, you will create an estate plan that protects all family members – traditional and otherwise.

Ready to protect your loved ones? Contact the team at Ozarks Legacy Law today to get started.