It’s well known that planning ahead can ensure a better future, and organizing your estate is a plan that needs to be taken seriously. Even if you don’t have many assets to worry about, careful consideration of your family and friends is important to structuring a will. While the idea of sorting through your accounts and taking an inventory of your property might seem daunting, it is an investment in peace of mind for you and your family. There is no time like the present to create a will, and if you are unsure about making concrete plans, remember that you can change your will at any time. Here are the top three reasons to have a will:

1. Intestate Laws in Oregon

Intestate laws, which vary from state to state, govern how your property will be divided if you die without a will. In Oregon, assets are given to the closest relatives of the deceased; first to your spouse and children, followed by your parents and siblings if you are unmarried or without children. Assets are generally considered concrete items you own, not intangible things like life insurance proceeds or bank accounts; however, those can be disposed of in a will as well. If you are married with children, assets are usually split between them. If you are single, then the state will track down any living blood relatives, from parents to siblings to cousins and grandparents. If you have no living relatives, the state will take possession of your assets in what’s called escheat. Without a will, the legal procedure for your family can be stressful and often painful, forcing them to dwell on your death for a longer period. These procedures are called probate, which is “the legal process to properly settle debts, have your rights of inheritance recognized, and close the estate” (Oregon.gov). The more descendants you leave behind with no instructions, the more likely it is that the estate causes contention between loved ones.

2. Putting Your Assets Where You Want Them To Be

A will is a binding document that outlines clear intentions for your assets. At any age, sitting down to make a list of your assets contributes to an organized future. When large purchases like a car and home enter the equation, leaving these items to people demands a concrete decision about who should get the title. Though a will maintains your decisions when you depart, it is still wise to be vigilant and update the will as you encounter drastic changes in life. Some of these drastic changes include divorce, an inheritance in your favor, having a child, or moving to a new home. If one of these events occur, a will can be changed easily using a codicil, or an amendment to your will. These can be made relatively cheaply and are a good idea when a major event occurs. Beyond that, a will offers you the opportunity to name someone who can make decisions about your property and your family when you are unable. This can either be through a personal representative, who manages your estate after you’ve passed, or a guardian, who can be tasked with taking care of your dependents. A power of attorney can also be drafted with your will, which can give someone the power to act for you if you are ever unable to act for yourself. This person can receive information and instructions from you so your true intentions will be carried out upon death or incapacity.

3. Leaving Your Family in a Secure Place

In a lifetime, there are many additions and departures to a family. Individuals with minor children are strongly recommended to have a will to contribute to their stable and happy future. Choosing a guardian is an important consideration to prevent someone you don’t know from taking care of your kids in foster care; if you’ve been recently married and your new spouse has children, it is important that you are the named guardian if the worst happens. Another person to nominate is the personal representative, or executor as they are also called. This role is mostly about dissolving financial issues, like closing bank accounts, paying off debts and cancelling credit cards, as well as making sure your property goes to the right person. You may also want to appoint a conservator, who manages the assets of your minor children until they are old enough to do so themselves.

The Mastanduno Law Group has experience working with clients to produce and amend wills and help with your overall estate planning goals. We tailor your will to meet your individual needs and will work with you to develop a plan that works for both you and your family.