The majority of Americans do not have a will. Writing one requires confronting a stark reality. But do you really need a will anyway?
1. Live-in partners get nothing
When you die intestate (without a will), the current scheme of where your property goes provides nothing for cohabiting couples, live-in partners, etc. It is more likely for your property will go to your grandparents than to your girlfriend.
2. Stuck in probate forever (around three years)
Few people realize that the money sitting in their bank account will sit for years until it’s distributed in probate. Years of bank fees. Family members can sometimes petition the bank for some funds in the meantime, but portions of the estate will be in judicial limbo for years.
3. Accounting hassles
If one dies intestate (without a will) and has a wife and two kids, in California the wife will receive a third of the estate, and the children will each get a third. Guess what the wife has to do until the children turn eighteen? She has to account for every penny that she spends out of the kids’ funds. If the children turn 18 and think mom spent some of the money on herself, they can turn around and sue their own mother. The accounting hassles and possibility of conflict make distributing the estate to one’s children less desirable.
4. Eighteen year-olds are not good with money
If property is disposed intestate to one’s children, it will most likely be held in trust and then distributed to them when they turn 18. Eighteen year-olds are not exactly brilliant with money management.
Intestacy laws can be weird and not what you want
If you want to see how intestacy would work out for you, try out the intestacy calculator here. Even if you look at the results and aren’t shocked, the results would still not be your personal choice. You (not the state) should have a say in how your entire life’s accumulation of property is disposed of at your death.