Article

The Risks of Not
Having
a Will

Planning for and drafting a will is an easily put-off task, as many don’t relish the thought of their demise. Yet as we’ve seen time and again from higher-profile individuals who have passed on without leaving behind a will, the importance of having one cannot be overstated.

Learn More
< Back to Insights
Insights  <  The Risks of Not Having a Will

Planning for and drafting a will is an easily put-off task, as many don’t relish the thought of their demise. Yet as we’ve seen time and again from higher-profile individuals who have passed on without leaving behind a will, the importance of having one cannot be overstated.

Planning for and drafting a will is an easily put-off task, as many don’t relish the thought of their demise. Yet as we’ve seen time and again from higher-profile individuals who have passed on without leaving behind a will, the importance of having one cannot be overstated. This multi-purpose document not only legally protects your family members and assets, it also specifies the distribution of monies, possessions and properties; names guardians for children; forgives debts; and generally ensures that your final wishes are respected and execut

The consequences of not having a will in place can be many, beginning with the absence of a named personal representative – without whom there is potential for a delay in settling your estate. Additionally, without a will there is no opportunity to select guardians, meaning the government and even some states could become involved in choosing who will take responsibility for your children, infirmed parents or other family members who require guardianship.

For those who die without a will or other estate plan, intestate succession laws come into play with the government deciding who will inherit your estate and in what proportion. This process will most likely not reflect your true wishes and will also be lengthier and costlier than if beneficiaries were identified ahead of time. And if an individual passes away with no living relatives, the state may end up with control of your estate.

The distribution of assets is also jeopardized if lacking a will. In most states, including Massachusetts, a spouse, children or parents are given asset distribution priority under intestate succession. If you had other ideas – leaving possessions or money to friends, charitable organizations, an alma mater – those well-meaning but not-acted-upon plans will never be realized. The same goes for the division of assets. You may have wanted to leave the bulk of your money to one child in particular or your “real jewelry” to a favorite niece, but without a will to specify those wishes, the opportunity is lost forever.

The need for a will is also especially critical if you’re owner or part-owner of a family business. The will serves as a legally binding opportunity to explicitly spell out who will receive your portion of the business. If you pass with no definitive stipulation as to who gets what and when, a host of problems will ensue, particularly if the family business comprises multiple siblings, and communication among family business members has not been clear and frequent.

A will can also include trust provisions for your children or other beneficiaries. A trust can provide for the care of minor children, disabled adult children or spouse and/or for the financial needs of other minor beneficiaries (such as grandchildren) in their younger years and subsequently distribute remaining assets once they reach a specific age. A trust can also specify when and how much of the funds should be distributed – otherwise, there is a risk that, once a child becomes 18, he or she is given the complete inheritance, with little guidance or tools needed to manage such assets responsibly and for the long term.

Once you have a will, it’s important to review it every so often and keep it updated. Relationships change, circumstances alter, births, deaths and divorces happen. Life is fluid – your will should be revisited from time to time to reflect important modifications.

A reluctance to accept the inevitable or mere procrastination are the most common reasons for not having a will. It’s a wise person who doesn’t let fear or unwillingness get in the way of drawing up a document that can be a real life-saver for your loved ones in the aftermath of your death.

Continue the Conversation with Our Team
Get in touch with us.

Contact Us