Why Do I Need a Will?

What is a Will?

A Will is a written document that provides the manner in which a person’s assets will be distributed when he/she dies. A person who dies after writing a Will is said to have died testate. If someone dies without signing a Will, they have died intestate. A will must be witnessed by two people and the Testator must be of sound mind.

How Do I Know If I Need to Make a Will?

Any assets that you own in your sole name constitutes your estate. Generally, the size of your estate and your family circumstances determine whether you need a Will. An estate does not have to be any particular size to justify a Will. If you have young children, or assets that you would like to ensure will be given to certain people or you have assets titled solely in your name, you need a Will.

May I Dispose of My Assets in Any Way I Desire By Making a Will?

Almost, but not quite. There are some limitations set by law to avoid placing hardships on the surviving spouse. For example, a married person cannot completely exclude the other spouse from sharing in the estate, without a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement. A lawyer can best explain all of the limitations.

What is the difference in Probate and Non-Probate Assets?

Probate assets are assets owned by you at the time of death and includes real property titled solely in your name, personal property such as vehicles, and retirement accounts that name your estate as beneficiary. Non-probate assets include property held as joint tenancy with survivorship, pay-on-death (POD) accounts, retirement and other accounts naming a beneficiary other than your estate.

Is a Will Expensive?

A lawyer will usually charge for a Will according to the time spent in preparing the Will. If you have a small estate and a simple plan for distributing your assets, then your Will should cost less than one for a large, complex estate with several people receiving assets.

What is Intestacy?

If someone dies without writing a Will, they have died intestate. Each state has specific laws governing the distribution of assets when a person dies intestate, and most laws are generally the same as they follow the Uniform Probate Code. The laws of Alabama are shown below, but you should remember that these laws may not apply if the deceased was not a resident of Alabama, or if their assets are located in another state. 

Why You Need a Will: Brief Intestacy Overview 

I. Assets going to the surviving spouse:

  1. Entire estate if no surviving issue or parents of decedent;
  2. First $100,000, plus ½ of balance of estate if there is no surviving issue, but there is surviving parent(s);
  3. First $50,000, plus ½ of balance of estate if there are surviving issue all of whom are also issue of surviving spouse;
  4. Or ½ of estate if there are surviving issue who are not issue of the surviving spouse.

II. Assets not going to surviving spouse:

If there is no surviving spouse, or there are assets left after the spouse receives his or her share, the assets pass under the following priority:

  1. Issue
  2. Parents
  3. Siblings
  4. Grandparents
  5. Aunts & Uncles
  6. Cousins