A Des Moines lawyer who specializes in estate planning suggests Iowans make a New Year’s resolution to have a will drawn up as a holiday gift to themselves and their family.
Ronni Begleiter, president of the Iowa Academy of Trust and Estates Counsel, says almost all of us should have a will but a recent study found fewer that half of Iowans actually do.
“If you have lots of money, you need a will. If you have kids, you absolutely need a will,” Begleiter says. “If you don’t have children and you have a spouse, you could probably get away without having a will.”
In that case, your spouse would likely get everything. If you’re not married and have no kids, your estate would go to your parents, or if they’re not around, your siblings.
“For some people, that’s fine, for some people, that’s absolutely not what they want,” Begleiter says, “or they have four siblings and they love three and can’t stand the fourth one.”
Even people who don’t have a lot of money who’ve never been married and don’t have kids should consider having a will created, she says, just in the event the worst case scenario should happen.
“It makes things easier for your family,” Begleiter says. “If the unexpected happens, they’re already in grief, they’re already in pain. By not having a will, you’re compounding their pain by making them try to figure out what you might have wanted and how they can get that done.”
Without a will, you can’t pick the person who will handle your affairs after your death.
She says that responsibility will likely fall to your spouse or to the child who lives closest, regardless of his or her abilities. More importantly, you cannot pick the person who will raise your children in the unlikely event that both you and your spouse die prematurely.
Also, without a will, you can’t leave family heirlooms or family assets to the people who should inherit them — and you can’t make a bequest to your favorite charity.