You know what a will is, right? Right. Well, at least I’m guessing you do if you’re reading this. It’s a legal document that says where your assets go when you pass. But there’s a lot more to it than that. So let’s discuss all a will involves! Fun!
First, I want to address a very common misconception. Wills go through probate. No discussion, it’s that simple in Missouri.
The next question really is if you need a will then right? Short answer. Yes.
But of course being a lawyer, the better answer is that it depends. Do you like Missouri’s intestate laws (where your property goes without a will)? No, then ABSOLUTELY! A will (and maybe a pre-nup) is the only effective way to tell the court where you want your assets to go.
Agree with intestate law? Then, you may not need one as much, but you probably still want one for the following reasons.
The most important being your wishes regarding minor children. Do you have an opinion on whom your children should live with? Make decisions for them? Control their money? Then you better have a will. A will is the only document a court will look at for determining guardianship of YOUR kids. (You can learn more about guardianship here).
A will can also dictate who is in charge of your property throughout the court process. Don’t want your brother John to handle your assets, but rather your sister Susie? Better get a will and nominate a personal representative.
You’ve heard me say it once, and you’ll hear me say it again. Probate is expensive and time consuming. Having a will can cause the court process to be less expensive and move more quickly. In a will you can authorize independent administration which allows your personal representative to handle more with your property without court oversight. You can also allow this personal representative to serve without bond. This means they don’t have the expense of finding and filing a bond (which can be impossible for those with bad credit).
Using a will in probate can also shorten the time it takes to go through the court by authorizing independent administration. This allows the personal representative to act without court supervision over many common administrative actions. In essence, it takes a lot of the burden of court off of the personal representative and might allow things to move more quickly because the personal representative does not need to go to court as often.
So when deciding if you need a will, much of the decision comes down to who your beneficiaries are, how your assets are titled, and how much of a problem a delay in court would cause. Not sure? Give me a call.