The COVID-19 outbreak has some people asking the question, “When do I need a will?”
Odds are, you are not going to die from the current pandemic. Nevertheless, everyone should ask themselves, “when do I need a will?” Although some people have no assets to distribute or wishes they want to be honored after their death, most people do need a will of some kind.
It could be a “simple will” or it could be an extensive estate plan, depending on your needs and the needs of your family, but putting a will in place now can ensure that your possessions go where you want them to go after you pass and it can ensure that your choice as to type of funeral service and other matters is honored when you are gone.
Your probate and estate planning attorneys on the Axelrod team can help you to protect your assets for your family and ensure that your wishes are followed when the day comes. Call now at 843-353-3449 or complete our contact form to set up an initial consultation.
When Do I Need a Will?
Most people who have any type of assets, children, or spouse need to have a will in place that determines where your assets will go, and how, upon your death.
Are you married? You may want to have a say in what part of your assets go to your spouse upon death and which of your assets will go to your children, charity, or other recipients.
Do you have children? If you want to ensure that your children receive your assets upon your death, that they receive certain assets, or that they receive a certain proportion of your assets, you need to spell it out in a written will. What if both you and your spouse pass away at the same time or soon after one another?
You can and should specify who will be responsible for caring for your children upon your death, rather than leaving it to chance – although it may be subject to approval by the family court, you can name a guardian for your children in your will.
Do you own assets or property? If you want a say in what happens to them after your death, you will want to execute a will that:
- Specifies who takes what part of your property;
- Specifies who takes what part of any “residual” property that is not identified in your will; and
- Accompanies other documents like a living trust, special needs trust, business succession plan, or asset protection plan designed to meet the specific needs of your beneficiaries and estate.
If you don’t have assets, do you have personal belongings that you want to ensure pass to friends, family, or children? Do you have special requests that you want to ensure are honored after you are gone like cremation or a particular type of funeral service? A simple will may be needed to accomplish your goals even when you do not have significant assets or property.
When Don’t I Need a Will?
If you are young, unmarried, do not have any assets, do not care what happens to your personal belongings after you die, and do not have any special requests that you want to be followed after your death, you don’t need a will just yet.
What Happens if I Don’t Have a Will?
If you don’t have a will in place, your possessions will pass through what is called “intestate succession,” which means the probate court will follow a complex set of rules that are outlined in the SC probate code – the state of SC will decide who gets your possessions.
For example, if you have a spouse who survives you, your spouse will take:
- The entire estate (everything you own) if you have no children; or
- One-half of the estate if you do have children.
Nothing will go to any other family member, friend, or charity unless your surviving spouse or children choose to give it to them.
If you do not have a spouse, the entire estate will be divided equally among your children. If you have a surviving spouse and children, the one-half of the estate that is not taken by the surviving spouse will be divided equally among the children.
If no heirs are identified, the state of SC will take your possessions…
If you die without a will in place, there is no certainty as to whom your possessions will pass or in what proportion – the probate court will make that determination based on the complex rules of intestate succession found in the probate code.
Can I Change My Will Later?
You can always change your will as circumstances change. For example, if you remarry, have more children, or decide you want to support a philanthropic cause, you can change your will as often as needed.
Do I Need an Estate Plan?
For many people, a simple will is just not enough. Your estate planning attorney on the Axelrod team can help you to put together a comprehensive estate plan that covers all of your specific needs including:
- Asset protection plans
- Probate administration
- Trust administration
- Simple wills and complex wills
- Powers of attorney
- Business succession planning
- Guardianships and conservatorships
- Elder law services, and
- Special needs planning
We are given only today. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to put together your simple will or complex estate plan to ensure that your loved ones are taken care of and to make what may be the most difficult time in their lives just a little bit easier when you are gone.
If you do not have an estate plan in place, or if you need to review, update, or improve an existing estate plan, call your estate planning and probate attorney at Axelrod and Associates today at 843-353-3449 or complete our contact form to set up an initial consultation.