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The Book of Ecclesiastes proclaims that “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” Notably, “a time to be born and a time to die.” Most of us can readily state our date of our birth. That other time is usually unknown. We all have that appointment that we must keep. And that is why those of us who have even a moderate amount of assets should have a will properly prepared and in place. Because without a will, there is no way that so much of what we would reasonably hope to happen, will in fact occur after our inevitable passing.
Consider this. Where there is no will there is no way:
1. You can be certain that any portion of your estate will be left to the person or organization of your choosing. Where there is no will the law of the Commonwealth of Virginia determines who your beneficiaries will be. That often results in estranged, but legal, family members receiving all, if not a substantial portion of your estate.
2. Anyone other than a blood relative can inherit from your estate. That means no friend, neighbor, significant other, or organization such as a church, fraternity, sorority, or non-profit can benefit from what you may wish to leave to them.
3. You can be sure that the person or persons whom you would want to be in charge and responsible for making administrative decisions about your estate will in fact be the ones legally empowered to do so. Without a will, almost any family member might serve as Administrator to oversee matters. With a will, you get to decide who you want to be in charge.
4. You can designate secondary beneficiaries. It is often desirable to consider including in a will that person or organization who would inherit from you if your first choice passes before you, or if that organization is no longer in existence, or if they pass simultaneously with you, and then you pass on before you have an opportunity to revise your will.
5. You can defer the payment of life insurance proceeds to minors beyond them receiving those funds upon reaching the age of 18. Single parents and grandparents will often designate children as beneficiaries, failing to realize that the legal, but young adult will have full control over sizable sums before they have gained the maturity to properly manage thousands of dollars.
In a will, a trust can be created with a trustee in charge to dispense the funds over time for their education and training, and ultimate disbursement at an age of greater maturity.
Where there is a will there is almost always a way to ensure that your wishes are properly honored and executed. It is in your best interest to seek the services of a legal professional who can guide, assist, and make suggestions to give you peace of mind about your estate.
By Eric O. Moody, Esquire