One of my pet peeves is hearing about how because there was a problem with a will a person’s assets went through probate. I hate this sentiment, because it wasn’t a problem with the will, it was a problem with the person’s understanding of wills!
A will is essentially instructions to the court on how to handle the estate of a person who has passed. It is meant to go through probate. It is the only way for the court to verify the will is legally valid, the last created will, and give notice to those who are required to have it under the will. So a will is really a very poor legal document to rely on to transfer assets upon a person’s death.
Now, that being said, I still often times recommend creating a will. But I make very clear to my clients, the will is a back-up to whatever other legal device we are using to transfer assets upon death. Should an asset need to go through probate, wills allow a person to decide where assets should go and change intestate law. This includes leaving money to non-family or charities, as well as, disinheriting the intestate heirs.
A will can also reduce fees in a few different ways. First, it can reduce the signature requirements of all the heirs or people involved in the process, thus reducing legal fees. Secondly, a will can waive bond, which is another place that can cause additional fees. Finally, it can specify the Personal Representative (or Executor) and reduce potential legal fees if all of the beneficiaries of the will do not agree on who the Personal Representative should be.
So for all these reasons, sometimes wills are necessary. However, I still don’t like them, hope to never need them, and rarely rely on them.