Do I Really Need a Will?

I’m much in favor of optimism. Believing in positive outcomes is often the first step in actually making them happen. But in some situations, being optimistic is virtually a form of denial; ironically, this can lead to some pretty unhappy results. I see this often in the legal world when it comes to people neglecting to create or update their formal Last Will and Testament. Often they’re under the mistaken impression that Wills are just for the elderly, those whose mortality is imminent and therefore must decide how their assets will be distributed. But the fact is, who of us, young or old, can make assumptions about how long we’ll be around? We all know that longevity is determined by luck as well as lifestyle. To dismiss the idea of creating a Will because you’re young and healthy now is a kind of gamble, even if the odds are in your favor.

It’s also a common misconception that Wills are only for wealthy people. I often meet young couples that think they don’t need a Will because they have little savings or assets. Yet they overlook the fact that their young children are a cherished asset, deserving of protection should a misfortune occur to both parents. A standard Will can clearly establish guardianship, which has nothing to do with wealth.

Through a Will you can also decide the distribution of sentimental assets and family heirlooms; otherwise, a stranger from the court system is given the power to distribute all such things. In these no-Will situations, family members who you may be estranged from have as much right to your valuables as someone you love. A routine Will can insure that your assets are dispersed exactly as you wish. It can also be part of your estate planning so that less of your money goes to the government for fees and taxes, leaving more to your loved ones.

Finally, drafting a Will is a great favor to your family and friends, relieving them of the job of guessing or arguing about how to distribute your valuables. One of the last remaining legal documents that requires great formality to execute, a Will includes witnesses and a public notary. As such it meets the requirements needed to withstand being contested. It’s a relatively inexpensive way to make sure your loved ones are spared hassles—and your wishes are followed. With a Will professionally prepared by your family attorney, you can truly rest in peace.

This article was originally published the The Columbia Paper. For a PDF of the original article, please click the link below: